Pee-ce at last.
It’s 4 A.M., you’re leaving your favorite bar after 6 pints of your favorite beer. You stumble to the train station, heading home when realize you have to pee. Not only do you have to pee, but it feels like you can go at any second. You scout out your surroundings, ensuring there aren’t any pedestrians, or worse police officers, looming around. And you go for it. You pee in a dark corner just to be stunned by blaring sirens and blinding lights from a police car, signaling the beginning of a very long night in Central Bookings. Well…maybe not any more.
As of Monday March 7, NYPD officers operating in Manhattan will no longer arrest citizens for minor offenses. Some of these offenses include: urinating in public, riding between subway cars, drinking in public, and taking up two seats on the subway — which admittedly most of us didn’t know was an actual crime.
That’s not to say you’re off the hook per se. These minor crimes will be met with summonses instead of handcuffs. Per the New York Times:
Summonses are adjudicated by judges, who ask the recipient questions about the alleged violation or infraction before deciding whether to dismiss the ticket or impose a penalty, usually a fine. The process is typically simpler and faster than prosecuting an arrest, which requires officers and prosecutors to spend hours processing a suspect, filing paperwork, building a case and showing up for court appearances.
The idea behind it is to reduce the annual arrest rate, and to keep citizens who are largely law abiding from sharing a intake cell with actual criminals.
Lawrence K. Marks, the state’s chief administrative judge, called the shift a sensible way to ease the burden on the court without compromising public safety. He said it would also improve how New Yorkers experience the criminal justice system.
“Being arrested and detained is a far different experience and can be a more negative experience than being issued a summons to appear in court at a future date,” Judge Marks said.
This new legislation will reportedly result in a reduction of the annual arrest rate by 10,000, but will not apply to “people accused of penal offenses, for which the punishment is prescribed by New York State law. Nor do they apply to people stopped for vehicular offenses or infractions involving drugs or weapons.” Additionally arrests can and likely will be made if perpetrators present a threat to public safety.
It is currently unknown if this legislation will be applied to other boroughs in the near future.