What is a Notice to Appear?
A notice to appear means a written order issued by a law enforcement officer in lieu of physical arrest requiring a person accused of violating the law to appear in a designated court or governmental office at a specified date and time. Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.125. (See FLPD Policy 503)
If you are accused of committing a crime the Police can issue a notice to appear (NTA) in lieu of formally arresting you. NTAs are issued for misdemeanor or county ordinances. The issuance of an NTA is in the sole discretion of the Officer. NTA’s cannot be issued for felony charges and are typically not issued for serious misdemeanor offenses.
If you are issued an NTA you may be surprised by it’s appearance. In most cases, you are given a one or two page piece of paper that will either be typed or carbon copied. The paper will contain: your name, address, date of the alleged offense, the statute/ordinance, number of counts, and the arresting officer. The NTA must also contain the date, time and location of where you are to appear for court.
Was I arrested?
Yes, a notice to appear is equivalent to an arrest even though you may not have been placed in handcuffs and taken to the police jail.
I Was Issued an NTA – What Happens Next?
A copy of the NTA is filed with the court and another is forwarded to the State Attorneys Office. The State Attorneys Office will review the NTA and make a determination as to what charges should be filed. The court date that is written on the NTA is usually scheduled for a few weeks after the NTA was issued. This allows time for the prosecutor to make a decision regarding whether the charges will be filed.
Do not be misled by the informal nature of an NTA. If you fail to attend the initial court hearing the court can and will likely issue a warrant for your arrest. Which means that the police can arrest you and bring you to jail for missing court.
An NTA is your notice that you have been accused of a criminal offense. An NTA is a criminal matter that can lead to a criminal record. It is important that you do not ignore this notice. If you have been issued an NTA it is in your best interest to consult with a criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense attorney can advise you through every stage of the proceeding.