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ARE YOU UNDER ARREST IF THE POLICE SHOW UP AT YOUR HOME? THE MERE ISSUANCE OF AN APPEARANCE TICKET BY THE POLICE AT A PERSON’S HOME DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AN ARREST

If the police crash through your front-door at 6:00 a.m. in full paramilitary ninja outfits like Seal Team 6; drag you out of bed with assault weapons jammed in your temple; handcuff you and then proceed to tear up your house before realizing you live at 639 Main Street and the warrant is for 693 Main Street, you are most likely in custody. You couldn’t just get up and head out for your morning jog. However, if the police simply want to serve you with an appearance ticket at your home for leaving the scene of an accident or some other traffic infraction mystery they diligently investigated; you would not be in custody when they show up in the same paramilitary ninja outfits.

It does not constitute an arrest where the police decide to issue an appearance ticket to a person in a situation that does not require them to stop and seize that person. For example, in Angel v. Kasson, 581 F Supp 170 (N.D.N.Y 1983) after conducting an investigation into the death of an infant, the police decided to charge the parents with Endangering the Welfare of a Child. Id. at 174.

However, instead of formally arresting the parents, the police traveled to their home and served them with appearance tickets directing them to appear in court on a specific date to answer charges of endangering the welfare of a child. Id. The parents weren’t stopped while walking on the street or driving their car, detained and searched.

At the recommendation of the district attorney, the court dismissed the charges against the parents “in the interests of justice.” Id. at 175. Thereafter, the parents filed a federal civil rights action against the police under 42 USC 1983 alleging, among other claims, false arrest. In finding in favor of the defendant police officers on the false arrest claim, the district court held that it is “well settled that the issuance of such tickets under the provisions of [CPR Art. 150] does not constitute an arrest.” Id. at 177-178.

The problem is that it’s not exactly “well settled” that the issuance of an appearance ticket does not constitute an arrest. To the contrary, the NYC Criminal Court has held that the detention of a person for the purpose of issuing that person an appearance ticket amounts to an “arrest situation”. People v. Hazelwood, 104 Misc.2d 1121, 1123 (N.Y. City Crim. Ct. 1980).
For more information, feel free to contact Tilem & Campbell toll free at 1-877-377-8666 or visit us on the web at www.tilemandcampbell.com. More detailed information can be found in our book “Appearance Tickets in New York” available at Amazon.com.