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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 27760
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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I am 19 years old and received a Notice to Appear by a police

Customer Question

I am 19 years old and received a "Notice to Appear" by a police officer for possession of alcohol by someone under the age of 21. Will I also receive a letter in the mail or is this my only notification?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 6 years ago.

If youe Notice has a time, place and date for you to appear, be there or a warrant will likely issue for your arrest. If it doesn't, something will likely come in the mail, but it's never a good idea to assume. Call the court and see if your case is calendared and when you're expected to be there. Then call them back every now and again, just in case.

The "I just didn't know" routine when you're standing before a judge involuntarily returned on a fugitive warrant is, even if true, not going to pull a lot of weight.

You know you've been cited and this notice has the force and effect of an arrest. Never hurts to be overcautious. The criminal justice system usually sends word about cases but they've got a lot more of them to remember than you do.

If this is your first offense and you're there when you should be, you can almost certainly come out of this without a criminal record. But if you start off on the wrong foot, even if it's arguably not your fault, that may be another story.

Good luck.

Edited by FranL on 2/1/2011 at 4:42 AM EST
Zoey_ JD and 4 other Criminal Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
The notice to appear has the court date, time and place on it. So I shouldn't expect anything in the mail?
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 6 years ago.

Correct. You need to get nothing further. This is a criminal matter and the procedure is different from the service of process to initiate a civil suit.

Most defendants don't get a written notice to appear. They get arrested. The Florida notice of appear is given to first offenders on non-violent misdemeanor offenses in lieu of a physical arrest, but it has the same force and effect legally as if you were arrested. You're expected to abide by it and report to court.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you so much for all of your help. I was concerned about another notice appearing in the mail. This is my first offense and hope it doesn't show up on my criminal record, being my first year in college.
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 6 years ago.

This is a misdemeanor, so if you can have a lawyer with you, great. If not, as you are a student you can plead not guilty and ask for a public defender.

The standard disposition for something like this if you're looking to resolve it with a plea agreement would involve some kind of probation (probably unsupervised) with a fine, some community service and some anti-alcohol classes. Do everything right and the case gets dismissed.

But remember that it does start off as a crime, which could give you a record. So if you can't come up with a lawyer, do not plead guilty unless/until you get a promise from the DA in exchange for that, so that you can walk away from this clean.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
If I plead not guilty will I be rescheduled for another court date?
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 6 years ago.

Every client is supposed to plead not guilty at his arraignment. Frequently, a case can be disposed of right after that. Eg, defendant is asked how he pleads. He pleads not guilty because that's what he's supposed to do. The judge asks the DA if there's an offer for the defendant. The defendant likes the offer, takes back his not guilty plea, enters a plea of guilty and gets the deal he was promised.

Sometimes, the DA won't give the offer on the first date. In that case, you plead not guilty and get a new date. Sometimes the DA gives an offer but you want a better one. Having pled not guilty you can ask for a new date, and have your lawyer negotiate a better deal for you.

I don't expect you are going to have to come back and forth to court too many times on this one. There should be a farily quick plea offer. But the only way you can keep your rights open is to plead not guilty, so yo never take back a not guilty plea unless you're getting what you want in trade for it, which in your case, would be not to end up with a record.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
If I plead guilty the charge will go on my record for sure?
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 6 years ago.

It depends on what you plead guilty to and what the promised sentence is. If the promise is that your case will be dismissed after you fulfill your probation requirement it will be on your record as a dismissal/

Again, this is why there's a right to a lawyer for anyone accused of a crime in this country. Criminal law can be subtle, confusing, and have lasting consequences. Try to get representation. And don't plead guilty or nolo to anything unless it's made clear to you that your charges will be dismissed, or that what you're pleading to is naot a crime.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Okay I will try to find legal advice before I have to appear in court. I just want this whole situation to be done and forgotten. Thank you for all of your advice. I'm a little less stressed about the whole situation now.
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 6 years ago.

Here's my point. It's perfectly normal for a criminal defendant to want his matter over as soon as possible. You can walk into cout and simply announce to the judge, "Can I just pay a fine and get this over with?"" and I'm sure the court would accommodate you. Except you'd walk out with a criminal record.

So what's quickest and less annoying over the short haul may come back and hurt you down the road. That's why you have to remember that you only have all of your rights open to you if you are in a "not guilty" position. Once you've pled guilty, you have given up your rights to fight the case or to change the deal.

And a lawyer is always a good idea, as he would be the only one in the system looking out for your interest while the case goes on.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I understand what you're saying. I would much rather have a little longer case than a speedy trial thats consequences linger over me for a lifetime. I will pay the amount and take whatever classes I need to get this mistake wiped from my trial. Man I wish you could be my lawyer.
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 6 years ago.

Thanks for the compliment, but any competent criminal attorney should be able to get you what you want with this case. You should be fine. Stakes do go up on this kind of an offense and police what college students like hawks for signs of underage drinking parties. Be careful. You can get arrested just by attending a party where alcohol is available and within reach, even if you never had anything at all.

These are strict liability crimes, meaning that there isn't much of any defense to them. If there's a next time, you'll end up with the misdemeanor, and while it's not the sort of offense that will completely ruin your life, it will cause problems.

Good luck!