Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced on Friday that his Office will offer New York residents with a low-level conviction for marijuana possession the opportunity to wipe their record completely clean.
Under the new program, anyone convicted of low-level marijuana possession (PL 221.15, PL 221.10 or PL 221.05) will be eligible to file a motion asking to vacate that conviction and dismiss the underlying charge.
This program follows DA Gonzalez’s decision to stop prosecuting all but the most egregious cases involving possession and smoking of small amounts of marijuana:
“It is only fair to relieve these individuals of that burden and allow them to turn over a new leaf and move on with their lives.”
“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 Gonzalez. “That criminal record can seriously impede a person’s ability to get a job, education, housing and other important services. It is only fair to relieve these individuals of that burden and allow them to turn over a new leaf and move on with their lives.”
The new program is part of the D.A.’s Justice 2020 Initiative – in partnership with The Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, Brooklyn Law School and the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law at NYU School of Law– and is the first of its kind in New York State.
The first opportunity for individuals to get legal consultation and fill in the motion will take place during an upcoming Begin Again event on September 21-22, 2018, at Lenox Road Baptist Church, 1356 Nostrand Ave. in Flatbush, from 9:00am to 3:00pm.
Under the new program, those with a past conviction for one of the specified offenses will meet with a defense lawyer, who will counsel them and assist in filling out a motion. After a review by the DA’s Office, the case will subsequently be called in court, where the DA’s Office will consent to the motion and ask that the conviction be vacated, and the underlying charge dismissed. Individuals will also have the option of waiving their appearance in court if they so choose.
“The Center is proud to partner with and support the Brooklyn DA in his Office’s efforts to help communities remove barriers to employment, housing and other important benefits by erasing past marijuana convictions,” said Courtney Oliva, executive director of the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law. “We hope that this necessary step is taken by other prosecutorial offices and agencies.”
Exceptions to eligibility include individuals with other convictions for certain violent felonies or sex offenses. It is estimated that about 20,000 people have been convicted in Brooklyn for one of the specified offenses since 1990.
Additional community-based sessions will be held periodically in the coming months.
For more information about Begin Again, go visit www.BrooklynDA.org/BeginAgain.