Dec. 16, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
State Senator Peralta announced today that he will be introducing legislation requiring city agencies to obtain photographic evidence of certain civil violations before issuing summonses.
If passed, the new legislation would require city agencies to develop lists of violations that would require photographic evidence, such as garbage on sidewalks or vermin in restaurants. When issuing a summons, the city agency would need to provide the photos or explain why they were not available.
“This legislation is about fairness, it is about transparency,” Peralta said. “Again, this is another example of how government can catch up to technology. New Yorkers already document everyday life situations with their cell phones or other electronic devices. There is no reason that enforcement officers cannot have proof of a violation by snapping a quick photo with a cell phone or a tablet.”
New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings reviewed more than 700,000 complaints during fiscal year 2016, but 406,914, or 58.1 percent, were dismissed.
New Yorkers served with summonses would still have the right to appeal the violation, Peralta explained, but the photos would provide evidence beyond a simple “he said, she said” debate.
“While justice dictates that respondents should have the ability to ascertain the nature of evidence against them, it is also important that the City is able to prove its case and uphold a summons when it has been properly issued,” Peralta said. “The use of photographic evidence will level the playing field, and allow all parties to accurately address the substance of cases appearing before the OATH tribunals.”
Under the proposed legislation, city agencies would be responsible for establishing their own procedures to collect photographs of violations. Once the photos are submitted with the summons, they will be uploaded to the OATH website so respondents can view the photos when deciding if they want to appeal.
The legislation will be introduced in the assembly by Assemblyman-elect Brian Barnwell, who beat out incumbent Marge Markey in the Democrat primary earlier this year, and then bested his Republican opponent in the election last month.
“I’m proud to sponsor this bill in the Assembly that will grant New Yorkers more transparency from their government. When individuals receive citations, they should receive photographic evidence detailing their alleged violation. People will now have the ability to see the evidence alleged against them. This bill will promote transparency and justice,” Barnwell said.