In prior blogs I have explained that where the police choose to issue an arrestee an appearance ticket instead of detaining that person until they can see a judge, the police must thereafter file a sufficient accusatory instrument with the court on or before the return date listed in the appearance ticket. What action the courts can take where the required accusatory instrument has not been filed before the return date has not been definitively decided by the courts with some holding the court may dismiss the appearance ticket, while others have held the court must dismiss and still others have held the court cannot dismiss.
The differing holds are discussed in the following three sections.
The Appellate Term For The Second Department Has Held
That Local Criminal Courts Must Dismiss Appearance
Tickets If Accusatory Instrument Is Not Timely Filed
The Appellate Term for the Second Department has held that dismissal of an appearance ticket is mandated if a proper accusatory instrument is not filed in relation to an appearance ticket at or before the appearance ticket return date:
"The appearance ticket is not an accusatory instrument and its filing
does not confer upon a court jurisdiction over a defendant. The
People’s failure to file a proper accusatory instrument with the court
mandates reversal and dismissal of the appearance ticket. . ."
People v. Hedick, 2002 NY Slip Op 50524U, 2 (App. Term 2nd Dept. 2002)
Numerous cases are in accord. See e.g., People v. Apollo, 10 Misc.3d 135A (App. Term 2nd Dept. 2005)(“Since there is no indication upon this record that the People filed a proper accusatory instrument with the court (see CPL 150.50), the court never acquired jurisdiction and dismissal of the summons relative to said charge is mandated.”); People v. O'Shea, 2003 NY Slip Op 51102U; 2003 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 948 (App. Term 2nd Dept. 2003)(finding that a parking ticket is the “functional equivalent” of an appearance ticket, the court held that the case “must be dismissed” because a proper accusatory instrument had not been timely filed with the court); People v. Lowry, 184 Misc. 2d 306 (App. Term 2nd Dept. 2000)(the People’s failure to file a proper accusatory instrument mandates reversal of defendant's conviction and dismissal of the appearance ticket); People v. Peak Carting, Inc., 11 Misc.3d 4, 5 (App. Term 2nd Dept. 2005)(“This court has consistently held that after issuance of an appearance ticket, the failure to file with the court a proper accusatory instrument mandates reversal and dismissal of the summons.”).
The facts in People v. Consolidated Edison Co., 161 Misc. 2d 907 (N.Y. City Crim Ct. 1994) are similar to those encountered by countless individuals who are issued appearance tickets in New York City – their “paperwork” was not ready when they appeared on the appearance ticket return date. In the Consolidated Edison case, appearance tickets charging violations of the NYC Administrative Code were issued to the defendant (Consolidated Edison) and made returnable to the Criminal Court, Summons Appearance Part. Id. at 908.
On the specified return dates, the required accusatory instruments had not yet been filed. Counsel appearing on behalf of Consolidated Edison was informed that the defendant would be notified of the new return date. Id. This common practice was noted by the court in a footnote:
"In similar fashion, a defendant who has been served with
a desk appearance ticket (DAT) in New York County is given
a new return date by a court officer stationed outside of the
DAT Part if no accusatory instrument has been filed by the
Id. at 908 (FN 2)
Informations were subsequently filed, and the cases were placed on the court’s calendar for a newly scheduled date. Defendant filed motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. Id. at 909. More specifically, defendant argued “that the failure of law enforcement agents to file accusatory instruments by the return date of the appearance ticket renders the court without jurisdiction.” Id. at 908.
The court granted defendant’s motion and dismissed all four cases holding “the continued prosecution on the same appearance ticket, accomplished by ‘adjourning’ the undocketed DAT, is impermissible. Rather, the appearance ticket, rendered a ‘nullity’ by the lapse.” Id. at 913. Not even the subsequent, but untimely filing of an accusatory instrument can save the prosecution – the case must be dismissed. The court was very clear on the dismissal requirement:
"Nor can the subsequent, untimely filing of an accusatory instrument,
in patent disregard of the mandate of CPL 150.50 (1), serve to cure
such constitutionally infirm proceedings. Rather, it must be dismissed
and, for the purposes of subsequent speedy trial motions or applications
for warrant of arrest pursuant to CPL 120.20, any recommencement
of the criminal proceeding must provide notice to the court of such
Id. at 914 (emphasis supplied)
Local Criminal Court Cannot Dismiss Appearance
Ticket If Accusatory Instrument Is Not Timely Filed
While the Appellate Term for the Second Department has held the court must dismiss the appearance ticket if the accusatory instrument is not filed before the return date, the Appellate Term for the First Department has held the opposite. In People v. Durao, 3 Misc.3d 134A (App. Term 1st Dept. 2004) the court held that the law imposes no penalty on the People for their failure to comply with the requirement that a sufficient accusatory instrument be filed at or before the appearance ticket return date:
"Although section 150.50 (1) of the CPL requires that an
accusatory instrument be filed with the court at or before
the return date of the appearance ticket, the statute does
not impose any penalty upon the People for their failure
to comply with said requirement. As a result, an aggrieved
defendant has no available recourse other than, in the instances
where defendant appeared on the return date, to start the clock
running for speedy trial purposes."
See also People v. Giusti, 176 Misc.2d 377, 381 (N.Y. City Crim. Ct. 1998)(“A Criminal Court has no statutory authority to dismiss an accusatory instrument upon a failure to adhere to the requirements for desk appearance tickets in CPL 150.10.”); People v. Brisotti, 167 Misc.2d 688, 691 (N.Y. City Crim. Ct. 1995)(dismissal for an untimely filing of an accusatory instrument is not an available remedy under CPL 150.50); People v. Fysekis, 164 Misc.2d 627, 630 (N.Y. City Crim. Ct. 1995)(“Where the People do not come forward with an accusatory instrument by the return date of the DAT, even though CPL 150.50 states that they must, there is no basis for the court to dismiss the action where, as here, there is no accusatory instrument before the court.”).
In People v. Hausch, 187 Misc. 2d 202 (N.Y. J. Ct. 2001), the Tuckahoe Justice Court held that dismissal of an information is not required where the People fail to comply with the requirement that the information be filed at or before the return date of the appearance ticket. However, this decision is at odds with the numerous Appellate Term 2nd Department decisions cited above which are binding on the Tuckahoe Justice Court.
Local Criminal Court May Dismiss Appearance Ticket
If Accusatory Instrument Not Timely Filed
Finally, the Fourth Department has held dismissal is discretionary where a defendant appears in court as directed in an appearance ticket but no accusatory instrument has been filed by the officer as required by CPL 150.50(1). In Snead v. Aegis Secur., Inc., 105 A.D.2d 1059 (4th Dept. 1984), the Rochester City Court had dismissed an appearance ticket in an underlying, related criminal action against Robert Snead because an accusatory instrument had not yet been filed before Snead appeared in that court as directed in the appearance ticket. In Snead, the city court dismissed the very day the defendant appeared as instructed. The city court didn’t make him wait for hours or give him a new date.
Accordingly, where the appearance ticket is issued will determine if the court must, can’t or may dismiss the appearance ticket and underlying charges should the police officer fail to file an accusatory instrument with the court on or before the return date.