An "i card” is a notification created by the New York City Police Department. It names a particular person as the “subject” of a police investigation.
I card is short for “investigation card”. If you're named in an i card (also spelled "icard" or "i-card"), you're wanted by the police.
The subject of an i card could be:
Whether you’re wanted for arrest or questioning, you should never speak to the police.
I card information is entered into an NYPD database. Digitized i card information is used to apprehend people wanted by the NYPD: i cards inform police officers who have no personal knowledge of a case to detain the person named in the i card.
For example, when stopping a driver for a traffic infraction, a police officer will run the driver’s name through various databases. If doing so triggers an i card “hit”, the officer will detain the driver.
An i card is not a warrant.
There are two types of warrants that are often confused with i cards: 1) "arrest warrants"; and 2) "bench warrants".
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.
An NYC arrest warrant is a court order directing police to arrest the person named in the warrant, based on "probable cause" to believe that the person committed a crime.
Probable cause can be established based on written affidavits signed by police officers and other witnesses, or based on an indictment issued by a grand jury (which is based on sworn witness testimony).
Courts infrequently issue arrest warrants based on affidavits because police usually don't need an arrest warrant to make an arrest.
Also, filing an arrest warrant in court “commences” a criminal action against the person named in the warrant. This usually causes the “speedy trial clock” to start ticking. Courts dismiss criminal cases when too much “speedy trial time” goes by. For this reason, prosecutors generally prefer not to seek arrest warrants.
A bench warrant is a court order directing police to arrest a person who has failed to complete a court-imposed obligation.
For example, if a person fails to appear in court on a scheduled date, or fails to pay a fine on time, the court will issue a bench warrant.
New York City criminal courts issue dozens of bench warrants each business day.
As a practical matter, 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 defense attorney 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.
Police routinely misinform suspects named in i cards that they’re named in a warrant. Police will notify a suspect by phone, in person, or through family members, that they have a warrant to arrest the suspect, when in fact, the suspect is the subject of an i card, not a warrant.
Police probably do this because: 1) warrants and i cards are similar, but more people know what a warrant is; and 2) suspects are more likely to turn themselves out of respect for the authority of a judge-issued warrant than a police-issued i card.
Despite police deception, voluntary surrender, arranged by counsel, with you saying absolutely nothing to police, is virtually always the best course of action, regardless whether the basis for arrest is an i card or a warrant.
Either way, police have a basis to arrest you. You shouldn't ignore them when they tell you that they do.
A person is “wanted” when police want to arrest him: he's named in an arrest warrant, a bench warrant, or an i card. As a group, these documents are known as "wants".
While an i card is a “want”. It's not a “warrant” because, while it may justify a legal arrest, an i card isn’t signed by a judge. Warrants must be signed by judges.
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.
You might learn that you're the subject of an i card in a number of ways:
There is no central number you can call to find out if you're the subject of an i card.
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:
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.
If you find out that you have an i card, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.
Your lawyer will:
If an i card has your name on it, the situation won't go away until you're arrested.
Once you're arrested, the police will stop looking for you, and you can resolve the accusation in court.
Never speak with police if you have an i card. The risk is too great:
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 or another provider of free defense services for help.
When you surrender on an i card, you will go through the standard arrest process:
Criminal defense attorney 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: