Four of New York City’s district attorneys have said they will in the coming weeks file motions in their respective counties to toss out 700,000 old warrants issued for low-level offenses like drinking in public and riding a bicycle on a sidewalk.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. will move to dismiss warrants that are 10 years old or older that stem from summonses issued by the New York City Police Department.
The en masse clearance will dismiss a significant portion of the city’s roughly 1.5 million outstanding warrants.
When warrants aren’t cleared, those who have them are subject to automatic arrest for years and decades to come, even if they come in contact with police because they were involved in a minor traffic accident or reporting a crime, Gonzalez said.
Under Gonzalez’s predecessor, the late Kenneth Thompson, the Brooklyn DA’s Office began holding warrant forgiveness programs. Vance’s and Clark’s offices have launched similar programs.
Clark said that the DA’s motions for clearance should not be viewed as mass amnesty.
“We’re not telling everyone it’s OK to get a summons and not show up,” Clark said.
But Clark—herself a former Bronx Criminal Court judge who dealt with thousands upon thousands of summons—said that many of the cases are unprosecutable because of legal sufficiency issues.
Clark said that, going forward, recent developments such as a dramatic reduction in stop-and-frisk arrests and the reclassification of some low-level offenses as civil infractions may keep the backlog of warrants from growing back.