FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Brooklyn District Attorney to Host Begin Again Event to Clear Summons Warrants and Erase Low-Level Marijuana Convictions and Warrants
At Lenox Road Baptist Church in East Flatbush on Friday and Saturday, September 21-22
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that his Office, in partnership with the Office of Court Administration, The Legal Aid Society and Brooklyn Defender Services, will host its sixth Begin Again event this coming Friday and Saturday, September 21-22 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. at Lenox Hill Baptist Church, 1356 Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn. Individuals with outstanding summons warrants who show up for the event will have their warrants vacated and summonses dismissed, and, for the first time, those who were convicted for a low-level marijuana possession offense will be given free legal representation and an opportunity to file a motion to erase that past conviction.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “Outstanding summons warrants and low-level marijuana convictions hold people back in a myriad of ways and do little to enhance public safety. By giving folks the opportunity to erase these convictions and warrants from their record, we allow them to move on with their lives while fostering community trust in the criminal justice system. I encourage anyone who may be eligible for relief to come down to Lenox Road Baptist Church to take advantage of this life-changing opportunity.”
During Begin Again, the following individuals are eligible for relief:
- Those who have been convicted of low-level marijuana possession (P.L. 220.05, PL 221.10 or PL 221.15) can file a motion requesting that the conviction be vacated. The DA’s Office will consent to the vast majority of motions (with the exceptions of individuals with other convictions for certain violent felonies and sex offenses). Those who fill the motion can waive their court appearance and a judge will rule on their motion without them having to be present.
- Those who have a warrant for a misdemeanor marijuana possession case can apply to vacate that warrant.
- Those who have a summons warrant for any infraction will have their warrants vacated and the underlying summons dismissed. These arrest warrants are generated when an individual fails to respond to a summons for a minor infraction like walking a dog without a leash or being in a park after dark. Besides the threat of a mandatory arrest, these warrants can impede access to services like housing and education and, in today’s immigration enforcement environment by the federal government, an open warrant can be particularly risky to undocumented immigrants.
In addition, District Attorney Gonzalez will move to vacate, en masse, approximately 3,000 outstanding summons warrants that were generated in connection with a low-level marijuana violation (PL 221.05) in an effort to clear the deck in Brooklyn after the City changed its enforcement policies earlier this month. Individuals who have these warrants do not need to attend the event.
Since its launch in June 2015, Begin Again has been held five times. Over 3,000 New Yorkers attended those previous events and over 2,100 warrants were cleared. Everyone who showed up received help and no one was arrested. Following the initiative’s success in Brooklyn, similar events have been held in other boroughs.
Individuals who appear for Begin Again will first consult with on-site attorneys to make sure only eligible summons warrants are heard. Participants will then enter a makeshift courtroom, where a judge will be on hand to address the outstanding summons and bench warrants. Those with past marijuana convictions will receive legal consultations and assistance in filling out a motion requesting that their conviction be vacated. A judge will decide on the motion, following the DA’s Office consent, on a later date.
The initiative corresponds with the District Attorney’s commitment to keeping Brooklyn safe and strengthening community trust in the criminal justice system by ensuring fairness and equal justice for all.
More information about the event is available at www.brooklynda.org/begin-again/