Brooklyn Project Safe Surrender Returns
If you live in Brooklyn and have an outstanding bench warrant for a missed court appearance at 346 Broadway on a pink summons matter, you may have received a letter from Mt. Pigsah Baptist Church in conjunction with the Kings County District Attorney’s Office advising you of the Project Safe Surrender Program. The full text of the letter can be seen to the right.
So what is the Project Safe Surrender Program? Basically, Project Safe Surrender brings the Courthouse to the Community. Many individuals charged with minor offenses fail to appear in court on their specified court date. For Brooklynites who have been issued a pink summons ticket, the usual courthouse is actually located in Manhattan, at 1 Centre Street. When you miss your court date, the judge issues a bench warrant for your arrest. If you are then picked up or stopped by the police for any reason at all, you will be arrested on the spot and taken directly to the police precinct for processing (fingerprints, photograph, mugshot) and then jailed overnight until you can be arraigned (brought before a judge) in the morning. But going to every individual’s home and trying to locate them is extremely burdensome, so for the most part, NYPD makes very little effort to locate those with bench warrants. Instead, they either wait for you to get in trouble again (or even stopped on a stop and frisk or in a vehicle) or they attempt to round up as many people with outstanding bench warrants as possible in putting on a Safe Surrender Program.
The Safe Surrender program is usually held at a church and the District Attorneys and a Judge are both present to decide upon the outcome of your case. Typically, these events are far less formal than the actual courthouse, with music being played and snacks or water being provided. But what doesn’t change from the courthouse are the consequences of pleading guilty. A guilty plea at the Safe Surrender Program is no different than a guilty plea in a Courtroom.
The sales pitch of the Safe Surrender program is to entice as many people as possible to surrender on a bench warrant. And for some people with a simple bench warrant on an open container of alcohol (10-125) or public urination violation (16-118) case, there may be no danger to showing up at the church without a lawyer to resolve your case. But for many others — in particular, those who have outstanding bench warrants or arrest warrants on more serious matters — the potential consequences of being arrested and taken to jail are quite serious and an attorney should be consulted prior to showing up at the church.
The upside of Project Safe Surrender is that members of the community who are unlikely or unwilling to appear in court are given a second chance to have their cases resolved in their own community without the need to get on the subway and travel to Manhattan to have their cases heard. The downside is that these events seem to indicate that defense lawyers (other than legal aid) are either unavailable or unnecessary, and this is not entirely accurate. Anyone who stands before a prosecutor and judge with an outstanding bench warrant and an underlying pending criminal case should be able to speak with an attorney prior to having his or her case adjudicated.
If you have received a Project Safe Surrender letter like the one above and would like to have your summons reviewed FREE of charge along with receiving a FREE telephone consultation, you should call us at 212-920-6950 immediately or complete our Contact Form here.