Crime Lab, Crime Lab New York Improving the Summons Process in New York City
Behavioral Scientist / February 26, 2018
By Elizabeth Weingarten
Imagine a 34-year-old single dad, Michael, who’s living in Queens, New York with his four-year-old daughter. One evening, he gets a ticket from the New York City Police for drinking an open beer outside his neighborhood bar. He receives a summons with the date and time of his court date, which is about three months away.
Michael skims the complicated, wordy document angrily—he still can’t believe that his minor offense requires going to court—and starts to wonder how he’s going to balance child care and his constantly shifting work schedule that day. Don’t most people skip these stupid things, anyway? Michael thinks. I’ll write this down later.
Later never comes. Michael misses his court date, and the judge releases a warrant for his arrest. A few days later, Michael is speeding on his way to work and a cop pulls him over. Discovering his warrant in the system, he cuffs a bewildered Michael and brings him to court to appear before a judge and address the warrant.