Freewheels Guide to your Critical Mass Traffic Ticket
Navigation Guide for your New York City Critical Mass Arrest
Please choose from one of the following links or scroll down the page:
do i qualify for legal aid?
what if i am injured during my arrest?
getting my bike back
to plead not guilty, or not to plead not guilty . . .
the police lost my property!
Now that you're back from your stay with New York's finest, here is some practical information to help you find your way through our wonderful legal system.
You should always consult with an attorney for legal advice.
Most of you were issued a Desk Appearance Ticket. If granted a DAT, an arrestee is only minimally processed, given a date to appear in court, and released. This means only that you have to show up in court to be arraigned on the day and time shown on the ticket. You have not been formally charged with anything until your arraignment.
A DAT may be given for violations, misdemeanors, and some E felonies. By the NYPD's own rules, an arrestee is considered ineligible for DATs only if he or she:
- has an outstanding warrant or warrant history
- is on parole or probation
- is a "misdemeanor recidivist"
- cannot offer verifiable name and address
- lives out of state (can still get DAT, by discretion of Desk Officer)
- is arrested for either a graffiti offense or threatening/menacing a cop or public official
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Arraignment: This is when you appear before a judge, are formally presented with charges against you, and plead guilty or not guilty. You will probably be offered an ACD at this time. You may bring your own lawyer or the court will appoint one for you. However, if you plan to plead not guilty, you should decide whether you will be hiring a private attorney or going forward with a Legal Aid or court-appointed attorney as early in the process as possible, since some strategic decisions must be made at your arraignment.
Most people arrested during Critical Mass are charged with parading without a permit and either one or two counts of disorderly conduct. These are violations, not crimes; they're pretty much equivalent to a traffic ticket.
Q: What if I can't make it to my arraignment?
A: NY Criminal Procedure Law 170.10 (1)(b) provides: In any case in which the defendant's appearance is required by a summons or an appearance ticket, the court in its discretion may, for good cause shown, permit the defendant to appear by counsel instead of in person. In other words, if you've got a really good reason, your lawyer can show up and ask to enter your plea for you, or accept an ACD on your behalf. You will need to have a notarized letter authorizing your lawyer to appear for you, and there is no guarantee that the arraignment judge will agree.
Q: What happens if I miss my arraignment?
A: If you fail to appear at your arraignment, don't arrange anything with your lawyer, or if the judge does not allow your lawyer to appear on your behalf, the judge will issue a bench warrant for your arrest. This is Not Good. Try to avoid doing this.
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ACD stands for Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal. It is not an admission of guilt, nor is it an affirmation of innocence. It means essentially that if you don't get arrested for 6 months, the District Attorney (D.A. --the city's prosecutor) will dismiss the charges against you, and the case record will be sealed. Bear in mind, however, that while a sealed record is supposed to stay sealed, in certain instances courts have re-opened them anyway. Also, if you DO get arrested within 6 months, the case will be opened and the charges will come back.
Moreover, an ACD can have serious consequences for your immigration status. If you have or anticipate having citizenship issues, you should consult with an attorney.
Taking an ACD also limits your options in terms of affirmative litigation against the city. For example, if you want to sue the city for malicious prosecution, you cannot do so if you take an ACD.
Q: When is it a good idea to take the ACD?
A: If you take an ACD at arraignment you will not need to make any further court appearances. If you live out of state or have a particularly demanding schedule making it difficult to return for the possible hearing and trial, it may be in your best interest to accept the ACD. For many people, however, rejecting the ACD, pleading not guilty, and fighting the charges against them is an important part of standing up to the police and to the city's practice of arresting bicyclists. (You may decide that taking an ACD and not fighting the charges is the right decision for you. If so, we hope you will consider contributing towards those who do choose to fight these charges.)
Q: Am I guaranteed to be offered an ACD?
A: No. The D.A.'s office has complete discretion over offering you an ACD and rescinding that offer. As a matter of policy, they have been offering ACDs to Critical Mass arrestees with no prior record up until the start of the trial.
Q: If I plead not guilty at my arraignment, can I change my mind and take the ACD later?
A: Probably. Because the D.A. has been keeping the offer open up until the trial actually begins, you will most likely have the option of entering a plea of not guilty at arraignment and then accepting the ACD later on.
Q: When does it make sense to plead guilty?
A: If you're offered an ACD, there's no reason for you to plead guilty.
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Do I qualify for Legal Aid?
The Legal Aid Society is a law firm for poor people located in New York City. They provide a wide variety of legal services for people who cannot afford a lawyer; their clients pay nothing for the services they receive. To find out if you qualify for their services, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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If you choose to plead Not Guilty:
Right on. We're with you. Either you can hire your own lawyer (Time's Up! is preparing an info packet to give to lawyers unfamiliar with cyclist cases), or, if you can't afford a lawyer, the court may appoint you one, or Freewheels can help you raise the funds to pay for legal counsel.
There will be several pre-trial hearings before your case actually comes to trial. At these hearings, all you have to do is show up?your lawyer will do all the talking. In some cases, the judge may agree to waive personal appearance, which means that your lawyer shows up but you don't have to. The number of pre-trial hearings will vary from case to case. In some instances, your attorney may try to consolidate your cases, so that you go to trial together with everyone you were arrested with.
While your case is pending you should not say ANYTHING to the media, on the internet, or over email about the details of your case without your lawyer's approval. Even if it seems innocuous, the city may be able to use your statements against you.
If You Are Injured During Your Arrest: Go to a local medical facility and have your injuries documented on paper and by photo (make sure you keep the name of the person taking the photo, their contact information, the date/time and place -- digital cameras with time/date notation on the photo are great). If you cannot, have someone take photos of your injuries.
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If Your Property is Lost or Damaged Following Your Arrest: Tell your lawyer about it, file a complaint with the city and with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, tell the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau. Ask for your stuff back, and do it quickly, because there are statutes of limitations.
CIVILIAN COMPLAINT REVIEW BOARD
1-800-341-CCRB; also check out their website
NYPD INTERNAL AFFAIRS BUREAU
315 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, NY, NY (212) 741-8401
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Getting Your Bike Back:
The NYPD has been holding bicycles as "arrest evidence" which normally would mean that you don't get it back until after your trial. Enter the attorneys: Gideon Oliver, a member of the National Lawyers Guild, is a civil rights defense lawyer who has been working tirelessly on behalf of Critical Mass arrestees. He (or another NLG attorney) will most likely contact you soon after your arrest. If you authorize him to represent you for the purpose of getting your bike back, he will contact the D.A. the Monday after your arrest and attempt to facilitate the prompt release of your bicycle.
Please contact Gideon Oliver for a copy of that authorization form or download one here [PDF or Word].
FreeWheels will try to provide a notary standing by when arrestees are released to expedite the return of your bicycle. And please read about our Steal It Back! program.
Whether you choose to retain Gideon Oliver as your lawyer or not, it is in your best interests to contact him (email@example.com) and/or the National Lawyers Guild (firstname.lastname@example.org) as soon as possible following your arrest.
1. Either Gideon Oliver or FreeWheels will notify you when your bike is ready to be picked up. At that point you will need to take your pink property voucher to 100 Centre Street, the courthouse in downtown Manhattan. Go up to the 7th floor, go to the "D.A. Release Letter window" and tell them you are there to pick up the D.A. release letter for your bike. (The hours at 100 Centre Street are Monday through Friday 8:30-4:00.) If they ask you for a certificate of disposition tell them that the D.A.'s office has confirmed that they are to be released, and that they can call the appropriate D.A. if they have questions.
2. Take your release letter to the warehouse at 520 Kingsland Ave. in Greenpoint, Brooklyn to get your bike. You'll need to have the letter and two (2) forms of ID, including one (1) photo ID. (The warehouse is open Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 2:00pm.)
Map of 520 Kingsland Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11222-1925
Directions by subway: Take the G to Greenpoint Ave. Walk East on Greenpoint 'til you hit Kingsland Ave.(this is a pretty good hike). Take a left onto Kingsland, and go to the entrance right next to the rock crushing machinery. It will look like an abandoned parking lot (this is because it is an abandoned parking lot). Ring the bell by the door and give them plenty of time to answer.
Directions by bike: From the Williamsburg bridge: Follow Grand St. as you come off the bridge for a few blocks, then turn left onto Meeker, which runs under the BQE. Follow Meeker about 15 blocks to Kingsland--you'll see a McDonald's on the corner on your right. Take a left onto Kingsland, and follow it past Greenpoint Ave. 'til you get to the warehouse.
We encourage all arrestees to travel en masse to pick up your bikes. Bring tools, as the NYPD are not necessarily gentle with your friends. If your bike is damaged at all, take lots of pictures, and give them to your attorney.
If you would like to arrange for Freewheels tour guides to accompany your group, just send an email to email@example.com .
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NEW: Have You Been Ticketed On Your Bike?
As the City's war against bicycling continues, many cyclists have been hit with bogus or petty tickets, some for "violations" that are not even real laws. If you've been ticketed, help us document the ticket blitz by contacting Noah Budnick (646)873-6022, at Transportation Alternatives with the intersection you were stopped at, the date of the ticket, what you were stopped for, the number of the law listed, and whether you plan to appeal.
For a list of actual New York City bike laws, click here.
Guide for fighting your ticket coming soon!
Congratulations, you made it through. Next it's time to learn how to file a NOTICE OF CLAIM.
"The city and the Police Department have made no effort to work with cyclists who ride in Critical Mass, the monthly ride partly meant to promote healthful and nonpolluting commuting. On the contrary, the police have endangered lives by riding motorcycles on sidewalks, ramming bicyclists and pulling them to the ground. The cyclists have responded peacefully and resorted to the courts."
—Niall Heffernan, Critical Mass arrestee