The Criminal Justice Reform Act Evaluation: Trends in Criminal Summonses Pre-Implementation, 2003- 2016

The Misdemeanor Justice Project (MJP) is pleased to publish the baseline report in our evaluation of the Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA), Trends in Criminal Summonses Pre-Implementation, 2003-2016. The CJRA is a set of legislative and policy changes which create the presumption, absent certain aggravating factors, that some lower-level offenses (i.e., public drinking, public urination, littering, and noise and park offenses) will result in a civil rather than a criminal summons. This baseline report examines trends in the issuance and outcomes of criminal summonses in New York City before the implementation of the CJRA.

This report documents a dramatic 55% decrease in the issuance of criminal summonses to individuals in NYC, from a peak of over 600,000 summonses issued in 2006, to a low of about 270,000 summonses in 2016. A sizeable portion of this decline is due to a reduction in the average number of summonses issued to a single individual at one enforcement event. The proportion of criminal summonses issued for offenses that are eligible for a civil summons post-CJRA implementation has increased over time. Among criminal summonses issued in 2016, more than half were for one of the five offenses that became eligible for a civil summons with the implementation of the CJRA.

The report also reveals divergent outcomes for criminal summonses issued for CJRA eligible and non-eligible charges. Summonses issued for charges that are CJRA eligible were less likely to be dismissed and more likely to result in a guilty disposition than summonses issued for other charges. Criminal summonses issued for a CJRA eligible charge were more likely to result in a warrant than summonses for a non- CJRA eligible charge. The report identifies warrant issuance rate of nearly 50% in 2016 among summonses for charges that are eligible for a civil summons post-CJRA.

This report is the first a series of four scheduled biannual reports providing quantitative analyses of the issuance and outcomes of summonses. Subsequent reports will examine how the issuance and disposition of summonses vary pre- and post-CJRA implementation, including by charge, precinct, and demographic group. The evaluation also includes a qualitative analysis conducted by Dr. Carla Barrett, which examines the implementation of CJRA at the OATH civil court sites, including perceptions of the ease of use and procedural justice of the new adjudication process among system users. The MJP’s independent evaluation of the Criminal Justice Reform Act is supported by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.