You Won’t Get Arrested for Public Boozing (or Urinating) in Manhattan Anymore

Jillian Jorgensen, Observer, March 1, 2016

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Unless it’s “necessary for public safety reasons,” the NYPD will no longer arrest people for certain low-level offenses in Manhattan, including public consumption of alcohol, public urination, littering and riding between subway cars or taking up more than one subway seat–and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. will no longer prosecute those infractions, his office said today. Offenders can still receive summonses, which require them to pay a fine but don’t give them a criminal record, for those offenses. Summonses are already an option for these offenses, and are often given to violators who do not have a warrant.

“Using summonses instead of arrests for low-level offenses is an intuitive and modern solution that will help make sure resources are focused on our main priority: addressing threats to public safety,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “Today’s reforms allow our hardworking police officers to concentrate their efforts on the narrow group of individuals driving violent crime in New York City. This plan will also help safely prevent unnecessary jail time for low-level offenses.”

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{snip} The news announced today applies only to Manhattan, and this specific initiative began with Mr. Vance, his office said–hence why it doesn’t apply elsewhere.

“By ensuring courts are not unnecessarily bogged down with minor offenses committed by those who pose no threat to public safety, we help focus police and prosecutorial resources on those who commit serious crimes,” Mr. Vance said. “By giving cops the discretion to issue summonses instead of requiring them to make arrests, we ensure they do not spend hours processing cases as minor as littering, and we enable officers to get back to patrolling, investigating, and keeping our neighborhoods safe.”

But some people who are stopped for these minor offenses may still end up in handcuffs–if they have warrants out for their arrest when they are stopped, they’ll be arrested on that warrant.

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And if someone has an open summons warrant–let’s say they didn’t pay their summons the last time they got caught littering and then they get stopped for that again–they’ll be “detained,” according to the DA’s office, and brought to court to face a judge on that summonses and the new one. But they won’t be arrested.

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