The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office has announced a program to allow those with low-level marijuana possession convictions to clean them from their records, which could clean the records of some 20,000 offenders as well as further divide the city’s five district attorneys in terms of how they approach marijuana cases.
In a first for New York, anyone with convictions of low-level possession will be eligible to file a motion to vacate their convictions as well as dismiss the underlying charges, all with the consent of the DA, according to a release from the office.
“As we move away from criminalizing low-level possession and use of marijuana, we cannot forget those who carry a conviction for conduct that is no longer being prosecuted,” said Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez in the release. “That criminal record can seriously impede a person’s ability to get a job, education, housing and other important services.”
The release states that the Brooklyn DA’s office estimates that there have been about 20,000 low-level possession convictions since 1990, but there could be more from the years prior.
Those who wish to apply for the program will get their first chance at the Brooklyn DA’s regular “Begin Again” event that is scheduled for Sept. 21-22, where those with convictions will meet with a defense attorney for counsel and to assist with filling out a motion. The event is scheduled to be held in Lenox Road Baptist Church at 1356 Nostrand Ave. in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn.
The DA’s office will offer future opportunities to apply for vacatur of possession convictions at community events in the coming months.
Gonzalez’s announcement comes just months after he and his counterpart in Manhattan, Cyrus Vance Jr., separately announced that they would cease prosecution of low-level and public smoking cases, and as New York City’s district attorneys remain divided in their views on marijuana cases.
District attorneys for the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island have all said they intend to enforce the laws that are on the books; on Friday, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark issued a statement calling on the state Legislature to “seriously consider” decriminalizing marijuana.
“The piecemeal approach to enforcing marijuana laws county by county creates disparity and will not change the underlying fact that marijuana is still illegal,” she said.