Warrants of 10 years or older which were issued for minor infractions, are being dismissed in 4 of the 5 boroughs, giving affected New Yorkers a chance for a new beginning
Early last month, acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez joined the district attorneys of Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx in a collective effort to dismiss a total of 645,000 summons warrants of 10 years or older. The dismissal process is part of the Begin Again initiative which aims to promote fairness and advance public safety by fostering trust between law enforcement and the communities.
“Our Begin Again initiative has been a tremendous success in helping thousands of New Yorkers resolve their outstanding summonses,” said Gonzalez during an event in Brooklyn.
The dismissed warrants were summons for non-violent crimes such as riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, drinking alcohol in public, disorderly conduct and being in a park after dark. Those approved of the dismissal have not been arrested in the past 10 years and do not pose a risk to public safety.
Although the infractions may seem menial, for the offender these warrants often have serious implications. Outstanding warrants affect the individual’s ability to secure employment or obtain public housing. Non-citizens are barred from applying for citizenship, and undocumented immigrants may be subject to deportation.
According to a statement issued by the district attorney’s office, most of the dismissed summonses were issued to poor, black and Latino individuals, demographics that are statistically at a higher risk to land in the criminal justice system for even minor offenses. The program spares thousands of New Yorkers from unnecessary arrest and clears backlogs in the court system which allows speedier trials for those in jail awaiting prosecution for serious offenses. Rev. Anthony L. Trufant, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church of Brooklyn, supports the initiative.
“The motion to dismiss the outstanding warrants offers productive, law-abiding citizens a break, while, at the same, de-clogging the court dockets of an exceptionally busy judiciary,” stated Rev. Trufant.
Public Advocate Letitia James shares the sentiments of Gonzalez and Trufant about the usefulness of the Begin Again program.
“Begin Again is a means for individuals to resolve their warrants in a supportive way, without having to be arrested and spend a night in jail for minor offenses,” said James. “Our criminal justice system should be a foundation that stabilizes our community, not an anchor that weighs us down.”
The data from the Brooklyn district attorney’s office shows that Brooklyn dismissed approximately 143,500 warrants; there were roughly 160,000 dismissals in the Bronx, 240,500 in Manhattan and 100,000 in Queens, resulting in the collective dismissal of 645,000 summons warrants.
The Begin Again program will continue its work in 2018. For more information and to learn about upcoming events, please visit the program’s website.