What's an "I-Card"?
An "I-card” is a notification created by a New York City police officer. An i-card names a particular person as the “subject” of a police investigation.
The subject of an i-card is "wanted" by police. The subject could be:
- A person who police intend to arrest.
- A “person of interest” who police want to question, either as a "suspect" or as a "witness".
The first rule of criminal defense is: never speak with police. If you're the subject of an i-card, always follow this rule.
Is an I-Card a Warrant?
An i-card is not a warrant.
While police officers may issue i-cards, only judges may issue warrants.
However, like a warrant, an i-card can provide a valid basis for police to arrest you.
Is an I-Card Worse than a Arrest Warrant?
Being the subject of an i-card has the same significance as being the subject of an arrest warrant.
If you're the subject of either, you've got the same problem: you're going to be arrested. You should consult a criminal lawyer immediately.
If you're the subject of an i-card, police most likely believe they have a lawful basis to arrest you.
If you're the subject of an arrest warrant, police believe they have a lawful basis to arrest you, and a judge agrees with them.
How Do I Know If I Have an I-Card?
You might learn that you're the subject of an i-card in a number of ways:
- When police pull you over for a traffic infraction, the officer tells you an i-card "popped" when he ran your license.
- A detective calls and invites to the precinct to answer some questions.
- A detective calls and asks you to go to the precinct to be arrested.
- Police come to your house while you're there, or your job while you're at work.
- Your family member, your roommate, or a neighbor tells you that police stopped by looking for you.
- You learn that someone filed a police report against you.
There is no central number you can call to find out if you're the subject of an i-card.
If you believe you're the subject of an i-card, a lawyer can contact relevant precincts on your behalf, to find out about it. You could do this yourself, but you shouldn't, because doing so would require you to speak with police – something you should never do.
Can I Avoid Getting Arrested?
If police intend to arrest you based on an i-card, there's usually nothing you can do to prevent the arrest from happening.
Two rare exceptions:
- You have an ironclad alibi. For example, you're accused of picking someone's pocket in Times Square at midnight on New Year's Eve: you can prove that you were in jail (or the hospital, or Australia) at midnight on New Year's Eve.
- Videotape proves your accuser is mistaken or lying.
If you believe you might be able to establish your innocence to avoid getting arrested as the subject of an i-card, you're probably wrong.
What Should I Do If I have an I-Card?
If you find out that you have an i-card, contact a criminal lawyer immediately.
Your lawyer will:
- Contact the police.
- Notify police that you're represented by counsel. (By law, police may not ask you questions when they know you have a lawyer.)
- Find out why police are looking for you.
- If police intend to arrest you, arrange your voluntary surrender.
- Try to arrange a desk appearance ticket rather than a full-blown arrest.
- Appear in court with you at "arraignment" (the first court appearance after arrest, where you plead "not guilty").
- Prepare you to have someone post bail at your arraignment.
If an i-card has your name on it, the situation won't go away until you're arrested.
Should I Call the Police Myself If I Have an I-Card?
Never speak with police if you have an i-card. The risk is too great that:
- You will "incriminate yourself" (say something that could be used as evidence against you); or
- Police will falsely claim you incriminated yourself.
Don't contact the police yourself. Hire a lawyer to contact the police for you.
If you can't afford a lawyer, contact The Legal Aid Society for help.
What Will Happen When I Surrender on an I-Card?
When you surrender on an i-card:
- Police will fingerprint you.
- Police will photograph you.
- Police might try to question you (unless your lawyer has contacted them, or you demand a lawyer).
- Police might place you in a lineup.
- Police will give you a "desk appearance ticket" (a "DAT") directing you to show up in court on a certain date, or
- If you don't receive a DAT, police will transfer you from a local precinct to "Central Booking" (a holding area where you will wait for the District Attorney to file paperwork in court).
- If you don't receive a DAT, you will plead "not guilty" in court at your arraignment, and a judge will determine whether to set bail on you.
Criminal lawyer Bruce Yerman has over 26 years of experience defending clients in New York City.
For a free consultation, call 212-390-0036, or complete this short form: