Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson has finalized an office policy not to prosecute low-level marijuana offenses for individuals with no prior arrests and no criminal convictions, or those with “a very minimal criminal record.”
“This new policy is a reasonable response to the thousands of low-level marijuana arrests that weigh down the criminal justice system, require significant resources that could be redirected to more serious crimes and take an unnecessary toll on offenders,” Thompson said in a statement on the policy, which became effective Tuesday.
The policy pertains to cases where the top count is fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, a B misdemeanor, or unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation.
When such a case comes into the office’s Early Case Assessment Bureau through an arrest or desk appearance ticket, there will be a presumption to decline prosecution when the individual fits the criminal record criteria. However, there are exceptions, such as if the defendant is smoking in a public place, especially around children, or has an open warrant.
News of Thompson’s overhaul plans in low-level marijuana cases were first reported in April (NYLJ, April 24).
While the city’s four other district attorneys often agree to dismiss such pot cases, and some have backed proposals to change state law to more fully decriminalize small-time marijuana possession, they haven’t explicitly laid out a policy of not prosecuting arrests; some, indeed, have said their approach is to prosecute the laws as written.
In a statement, Police Commissioner William Bratton said the Brooklyn D.A.’s policy shift would not mean changes in police policies and procedures. Bratton said police must uniformly enforce state laws to be effective.