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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 27045
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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I had a very similar situation today: I was at Penn station

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I had a very similar situation today: I was at Penn station and stopped the escalator to go down to get my train. I have never done this before but saw others doing it so I did not think much of it. However, I got stopped by a police officer who gave a summons for disorderly conduct. I have clean background, and I really don't want this to go on my record. Also, we are planning to move abroad in a couple of months so I have to make sure that this is cleared up by then. Unfortunately, the court date is schedule after our scheduled departure, so I am not sure what to do. Please help - thank you!

Hi Jacustomer,

Disorderly conduct in NYS is a violation and not a crime. Even if you were to plead guilty to this offense, you could still honestly say that you'd never been convicted of a crime and dis cons seal automatically after a year, so long as you remain out of trouble that long. So your worst case scenario here is pretty good.

Unfortunately with a low level offense like this it takes several weeks for this to get filed with the court and calendared. But it should only take three weeks or so and it should be ready to go before you move abroad.

You can do this one of two ways. You can hire a lawyer to represent you and to advance the case so that you can dispose of it before you leave. A lawyer may be able to get this matter dismissed for you, which would be a better deal than a plea to the disorderly conduct.

You could also leave the date the way it is and have a lawyer stand up on this case on your behalf. He should be able to resolve this matter without you and again, the worst case scenario is that you'd have an infraction on your record for a year, and then it would drop out of sight. Best case is that it's dismissed without you.


What you can't do, however, is to fail to show up, unless you have retained a lawyer to stand up on the case for you. If neither you nor a lawyer on your behalf answer the call of the calendar, a warrant will issue for your arrest, which could be inconvenient, to say the least, if you come back to the States.

If you don't know where to find a criminal lawyer you can contact the NYS bar association's lawyer referral service. They charge a $35 fee to find you a lawyer but it includes a half hour free consultation wth the attorney.

Good luck!

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you. So, do I have to plea guilty? I have done some reading about disorderly conduct cases and this hardly seems to qualify for one. I am still within the 48 hours (until tonight) and I am wondering if it is worth mailing them the plea form pleading not guilty. There is no place where I can even explain myself so I am not sure if it would get me any further. I wish I could somehow explain I was going home to my sick daughter (my wife called me about it right before this happened) otherwise I would have never even thought about doing this...

My family and I are just having a hard time figuring out how we could allocate thousands of dollars for a lawyer for something as frivolous as this case.


No, of course you don't have to plead guilty. If you fight it, like I have said, you could probably get the matter dismissed.

I only brought up the plea to let you know that even if you were to resolve it with a plea, this charge is the criminal court equivalent of a traffic offense. That is, it's a violation and not a crime, even at its worst. It carries a maximum sentence of 15 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $250. If you wanted a plea, you could pay a small fine, be done with it and it will seal within a year, after which nobody would find it.

If you want to fight the case on the other hand, you must plead not guilty. However, to fight the case you have to either show up or hire a lawyer to show up for you. If you do nothing at all, I can assure you that a warrant will be issued for your arrest.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for your answer. In your experience, do you think it is worth fighting it? And if I were to fight it without a lawyer, could I still have the case dismissed or would I just waste my time? Also, can they change the court date upon request or is that unheard of?

I am really torn about what to do.

These summonses and desk appearance tickets are very low level offenses and don't have much system priority. You may be able to move the date up to before you move abroad, but it is going to depend on how soon the summons is processed by the system. In other words, if the court doesn't have your case yet on file, there's nothing you can do to change the date.

Contact the court and talk to the clerk. See if your case is in their system yet. Then ask the clerk whether they can change this date for you as you will be leaving the country before the date. Follow his instructions. You may have to write a letter to the judge.

Is it worth it? This is the kind of matter that can potentially get dismissed either conditionally or outright, so if you feel outraged pleading guilty to something you feel is overcharged or unjust, it's likely worth it. If the bother isn't worth it to you and you want to settle for the violation and have it on your record for a year, you won't get badly hurt for going that route. But of course, a dismissal trumps a conviction.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks. I am also reading on the back of the summons that if I plead not guilty in person (at the time and date set for appearance), a second court appearance will then be required at a later date for trial. I was under the impression that the case would be solved on the day of the court date either with a fine or with a dismissal. Is this right?

On the other hand, if I mail in the plea form today, I would have to wait at least 30 days to find out when the court date would be, which could be way past the original date...

Also, can the case be dismissed even if I plead guilty? Thanks!

1) This is in part why I said you should use a lawyer if you want to fight the case.

If you are looking for a conditional dismissal, he should be able to manage to dispose of this on your first court date. But if the DA is adamant that this case should not be dismissed, you would have to choose between the violation and the a new date, on which you and/or he would be expected to appear then too. If it went to a third or 4th date, ditto.

Trials can take time. There are many more trial-bound cases awaiting their trial than there are judges, and DAs to hear them.

2) If you mail in the form, you could still call as I mentioned above, and see if you can work out your court date with the clerk, once the case is filed with the court;

3) No. If you plead guilty, you will be convicted of a criminal violation.
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