New York City Experiences 94% Decline In Criminal Summonses After Criminal Justice Reform Act (CRJA)

New York City Experiences 94% Decline In Criminal Summonses After Criminal Justice Reform Act (CRJA)

New York City Experiences 94% Decline In Criminal Summonses After Criminal Justice Reform Act (CRJA)

Data Collaborative for Justice at John Jay estimates 123,000 fewer criminal summonses and 58,000 fewer warrants due to CJRA over 18 months

The Data Collaborative for Justice (@dataforjustice) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice has found that, during the year after the New York City Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA) went into effect, there was a 94% decline in the number of criminal summonses issued by the New York City Police Department and a 93% decline in associated warrants for failure to appear in court. The CJRA shifted most enforcement of specified low-level, non-violent offenses from criminal court to civil administrative hearings conducted at the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH). DCJ projects that, because of this shift, approximately 123,000 fewer criminal summonses and 58,000 less warrants were issued to New Yorkers in the 18-months following implementation in June 2017.

The CJRA allows police officers to issue a civil summons rather than a criminal court summons for five offenses: (1) public consumption of alcohol, (2) public urination, (3) littering, (4) unreasonable noise, and (5) NYC Park Rules offenses.  By moving enforcement of many of these offenses out of the criminal courts, the City Council and the Mayor sought to create more proportionate responses to these lower-level, non-violent offenses.  They also sought to reduce the number of warrants issued for New Yorkers who failed to appear for a criminal summons, thereby reducing collateral consequences.   

In addition, to documenting a reduction in criminal summonses and warrants, DCJ’s report also found the following for the 18 months following CJRA’s implementation:

  • In the year following CJRA’s implementation, there was a significant reduction in overall enforcement of CJRA offenses -- a 48% decline in the combined issuance of criminal and civil summonses for these offenses.
  • Eighty-seven percent (87%) of summonses for CJRA offenses were issued as civil, rather than criminal summonses.
  • There was significant variation in the rate of criminal summons issuance across precincts; Certain precincts in the Bronx and three out of four Staten Island precincts issued criminal summonses for CJRA offenses at rates well above the city average.
  • Rates of appearance at OATH for people who received civil CJRA summonses were similar to rates of appearance in criminal courts for people who received criminal summonses for CJRA offenses.
  • Thirty-eight percent of people who received civil summonses opted to pay a fine prior to a hearing at OATH.
  • For those individuals who did appear in court in response to a civil summons, a significant percentage [73%] opted to participate in a community service program offered by OATH in lieu of a fine (women and young people ages 16-17 were most likely to select community service).


Read the full report, which was funded by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

“DCJ believes that criminal justice reforms, including the Criminal Justice Reform Act, should undergo independent, rigorous study to ensure they are having their intended effects,” says Preeti Chauhan, Director of John Jay’s Data Collaborative for Justice. “We now know and results shows that, as a result of the City’s implementation of CJRA, tens of thousands of New Yorkers have avoided contact with criminal courts.”

“The report by the Data Collaborative for Justice provides a helpful description of how New York City responded to the change in law that permitted police to use a civil instead of criminal response to several low level offenses.  Striking is rapid adoption of that civil response and the radical drop in warrants associated with it," Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Director Elizabeth Glazer said. “How this change affects the quality of life in our city and what the role of enforcement and other approaches should be in obtaining the best conditions for every New Yorker are important questions that we will be working to address."

 “This study shows what we can achieve when we dream big on criminal justice reform, and demonstrates that transformative changes in the criminal justice system are possible without sacrificing public safety or quality of life.” said City Council Speaker, Corey Johnson. “By shifting quality of life offenses away from criminal courts, the CJRA has achieved its goals of fairness and proportionality for tens of thousands of New Yorkers each year.”

 “DCJ’s study, which shows the appearance rate for CJRA summonses at OATH are close to the appearance rate in criminal court for these lower level non-violent offenses, said Acting OATH Commissioner and Chief Administrative Law Judge Tynia D. Richard.  “Given that the CJRA permits OATH to offer community service as an alternative to the monetary penalty offered in criminal court and the fact that 58,000 fewer criminal court warrants have been issued, the study clearly shows that moving these matters to OATH’s civil administrative law court setting has been a positive change.”

“I want to applaud the Data Collaborative for Justice at John Jay and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice for providing us with tangible data proving the effectiveness of the criminal justice reform act.” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson “As a legislator and one of the prime sponsors of the Criminal Justice Reform Act, I will continue to work with the administration and advocates to ensure that we continue to fight for fairness in our legal system” 

 “The proof of the Criminal Justice Act’s efficacy is in the numbers. A near-elimination of unwarranted criminal summonses is significant progress for the criminal justice system.” said Council Member Keith Powers “Thank you to the Data Collaborative for Justice at John Jay and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice for the evaluation of this reform.”

About the Data Collaborative for Justice  
The Data Collaborative for Justice (DCJ) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice houses a group of research initiatives that raise important questions and share critical research about the criminal justice system and its role in creating safe, just and equitable communities. DCJ conducts data analysis and research on enforcement in the community, the adjudication of cases in the courts, and the use of confinement in jails and prisons. DCJ’s work has informed policy reforms, facilitated partnerships between researchers and government agencies across the country, spurred new scholarly research on lower-level enforcement, and been cited extensively in the press.    

To date DCJ has published reports on misdemeanor arrests, criminal summonses, pedestrian stops, mobility of arrests for misdemeanors, trends in jail admissions and custody, as well as evaluations of reform initiatives. For more information, please go to:     

About John Jay College of Criminal Justice:  
An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York is a Hispanic Serving Institution and Minority Serving Institution offering a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. John Jay is home to faculty and research centers at the forefront of advancing criminal and social justice reform. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College engages the theme of justice and explores fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @JohnJayCollege