What is a Notice to Appear?

Lasnetski Gihon Law
Notice to Appear

A Notice to Appear may look like a ticket or citation, but it has the same effect as if you were handcuffed and taken to jail.  Being issued a Notice to Appear often gives a false sense of security that the case isn't that serious, but if you have been issued a notice to appear, you are facing the same potential consequences as if you had been arrested.  Call the experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorneys of Lasnetski Gihon Law today to discuss your Notice to Appear.  We will discuss your options, potential diversion programs, driver's license issues, evidence or lack thereof, possible defenses, and otherwise answer your questions during a free phone or in-person consultation.  

What is a Notice to Appear?

A "Notice to Appear" is defined in Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.125:
a written order issued by a law enforcement officer in lieu of physical arrest requiring a person accused of violation the law to appear in a designated court or governmental office at a specified date and time.
Police officers can issue a notice to appear instead of actually arresting you.  As a practical matter, the officer would issue you what looks like a citation.  You would schedule a court appearance and then the criminal process would be the same as if you had been arrested.  In Jacksonville, if you are issued a notice to appear, your first court appearance will be in front of a criminal county court judge.  That judge will often relay the State's offer to you and will ask you if you want to resolve the case that day.  You should never resolve a criminal case without consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney.  There are statutory traps that you may not be advised of by the judge or prosecutor, including a suspension of your driver's license, inability to get your record sealed or expunged, deportation, and many other collateral consequences.  

How does a police officer decide whether to make an arrest or to issue a Notice to Appear?

A police officer can only issue a Notice to Appear for a misdemeanor or municipal ordinance violation, not for a felony. The officer may issue the Notice to Appear in lieu of arrest unless:
  • you fail or refuse to sufficiently identify yourself or supply the required information
  • you refuse to sign the notice to appear
  • the officer has reason to believe that your continued liberty constitutes an unreasonable risk of bodily injury to the accused or others
  • you have no ties with the jurisdiction reasonably sufficient to assure your appearance or there is substantial risk that you will refuse to respond to the notice
  • the officer has any suspicion that you may be wanted in any jurisdiction, or
  • it appears that you previously have failed to respond to a notice or a summons or have violated the conditions of any pretrial release program.
Notices to appear are often issued for non-violent offenses where you have no prior record and you live in the county where the offense occurred.  It is discretionary, so when a notice to appear is issued can vary from agency to agency and even from police officer to police officer.   

Why wouldn't an officer issue me a Notice to Appear?

There are several reasons that an officer may not issue you a notice to appear.  For example, the officer must make an arrest for several crimes, including DUI and domestic battery.  Other reasons that an officer may make a physical arrest are if you are from out of town and have no substantial ties to the area, you aren't cooperative, you have a prior record, and more.  Every police department has their own policies on when officers can and should issue notices to appear.  Officers are often given wide discretion whether to make an arrest or whether to issue a notice to appear within statutory limitations.  

What are some typical offenses where police officers do issue Notices to Appear?

The types of offenses that we most often see where Notices to Appear are issued are petit thefts and other minor criminal offenses where the person has no or minimal prior record.  Also, on criminal traffic cases, citations are often issued in lieu of arrest for driving with suspended license and other criminal traffic cases.

  What if I don't appear at my court date?

The judge will usually issue a warrant for your arrest.

If you or a loved one has been issued a
Notice to Appear,

Call Lasnetski Gihon Law Now!

904-642-3332 (Jacksonville)

407-228-2019 (Orlando). 

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