Corporations in New York can be charged with criminal and non-criminal offenses. Corporations are often charged with regulatory violations some of which are indeed criminal. These include zoning, building, fire safety and health offenses but can also be charged with criminal offenses. Service of an appearance ticket on a corporate defendant in a criminal action is not guided by Article 150 of the New York Criminal Procedure Law as it is for service on a natural person. Instead, service of an appearance ticket upon a corporate defendant in a criminal action is guided by CPL 600.10 which provides in pertinent part:
The court attendance of a corporation for purposes of commencing
or prosecuting a criminal action against it may be accomplished by
the issuance and service of a summons or an appearance ticket if
such action has been or is about to be commenced in a local criminal
court, and by a corporate summons if such action has been commenced
in a superior court.
Keep in mind, service of an appearance ticket on a corporate defendant must comport with CPL 600.10 only when the charges are criminal. Whether the criminal action is in local criminal court or superior court provides a key distinction. The actual commencement of a criminal action is not required before an appearance ticket or summons can be issued and served to secure a corporate defendant’s attendance in local criminal court. With regard to local criminal court actions, the summons or appearance ticket can be issued and served if a criminal action “has been or is about to be commenced in a local criminal court. . .” Id.
However, a corporate defendant’s attendance in a criminal action commenced in a superior court can only be secured by the issuance and service of a corporate summons (not an appearance ticket) pursuant to [CPL Art. 600] if a criminal action “has been commenced in a superior court. . .” Id.
The summons or appearance ticket:
must be served upon the corporation by delivery thereof to an officer, director, managing or general agent, or cashier or assistant cashier of such corporation or to any other agent of such corporation authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process.
The problem in terms of fair notice to a corporate criminal defendant is that this statute allows for the summons or appearance ticket to be delivered to, among others, “any other agent of such corporation authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process.” Id. (emphasis supplied). Therefore, because the Secretary of State is deemed to be an agent for service of process for all domestic corporations and foreign corporations authorized to do business in the State (Bus. Corp. Law 304), service of an appearance ticket issued against a corporate defendant on the Secretary of State pursuant to Bus. Corp. Law 306 has been held sufficient to confer the criminal court’s jurisdiction over such corporate defendant. People v. New York Paving, Inc., 155 Misc.2d 934 (N.Y. City Crim. Ct. 1992).
Furthermore, service of a complaint in a civil action on a New York Corporation or foreign corporation authorized to do business in New York can also be accomplished by service on the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State then mails the complaint to the business. See Bus. Corp Law 306 and 307. Therefore, it is imperative that New York Corporations or foreign corporations authorized to do business in New York notify the Secretary of State of any change of address. These corporations must update the address they have on file with the Secretary of State otherwise they risk defaulting in both criminal and civil actions where the initial documents (complaints in civil cases and summons in criminal cases) are served through the Secretary of State.
For more information about appearance tickets for both individual and corporate defendants in New York, 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.