Marijuana was legalized more than a month ago, but some New Yorkers nonetheless have open circumstances or warrants associated to marijuana prices that depart them susceptible to arrest and different involvement with the justice system.
Each district lawyer’s workplace within the 5 boroughs has its personal course of for dismissing pending marijuana prices in gentle of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which was signed into state legislation on March thirty first—and it appears some are shifting faster than others.
The Bronx Defenders despatched a letter to Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark’s workplace on April twentieth—three weeks after the legislation was handed—urging her to start performing in accordance with the legislation. The letter estimated there have been “hundreds” of pending circumstances within the Bronx through which probably the most critical prices had been prison sale or possession of an quantity of marijuana that’s now authorized or lowered to a violation beneath the MRTA.
“These cases are hanging over people’s heads,” stated Eli Northrup, an lawyer with the Bronx Defenders.
Open marijuana circumstances within the Bronx embrace 41 through which folks have already been arraigned on prices and have courtroom dates developing, in accordance with the Bronx Defenders.
They additionally embrace circumstances through which somebody was arrested and given a desk look ticket to point out up in courtroom, the place they are going to both be formally charged or their case might be dismissed. And they embrace warrants that had been issued for an individual’s arrest as a result of they failed to seem in courtroom or pay a tremendous. According to Northrup, that is seemingly the most important class because it may embrace warrants going again many years.
It’s been over a month since marijuana was legalized in NY, but @BronxDAClark has taken no motion. Her workplace remains to be actively prosecuting marijuana circumstances, and has did not vacate the tons of of warrants which might be excellent (every one can result in arrest and detention).
— Eli Northrup (@EliNorthrup) May 6, 2021
A spokesperson for the Bronx D.A.’s workplace stated, “We are responding to the legislation, and looking to dismiss the relevant cases.” The spokesperson declined to offer further particulars on the method or timeline for dropping circumstances.
Since the MRTA was handed, many judges have been dismissing marijuana prices when purchasers seem in courtroom, stated Ruben Fernandez, one other lawyer with Bronx Defenders. If somebody had been convicted of a marijuana cost that’s now not against the law, it will be mechanically expunged beneath the brand new legislation.
But unresolved authorized points can nonetheless have critical penalties.
If somebody has an open warrant, as an illustration, which means they are often arrested if they’re stopped by a police officer.
“But clearing a warrant is a process,” stated Fernandez, noting that it needs to be achieved in individual. “Sometimes you have no idea if you have a warrant.”
Court dates will also be a burden. “It means you lose work,” Fernandez stated. “It means you need child care. It might be easier now because you can appear virtually, but what if you don’t have virtual capabilities?”
Gothamist/WNYC reached out to different district attorneys’ workplaces within the metropolis to ask about their progress in dismissing open marijuana circumstances. The Queens and Staten Island district attorneys’ workplaces didn’t reply to requests for remark. A spokesperson for the Queens Defenders stated the district lawyer’s workplace is “dismissing weed cases in Queens. Slowly, but they are.”
A spokesperson for Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez stated in a press release, “We don’t intend to submit marijuana charges to juries or grand juries. We also intend to dismiss pending marijuana offenses that are legal under the law in the course of court proceedings.”
The workplace of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance was the one one to supply particulars on the method. The workplace is dismissing pending prices on a rolling foundation, based mostly on the person’s scheduled courtroom date, a spokesperson stated. She added that the D.A. is working with the Office of Court Administration to compile a listing of related warrants and can “vacate those warrants and dismiss the charges en masse once that is complete, which we hope will be in the near future.”
Meanwhile, the neighboring Nassau County District Attorney took motion to vacate warrants in additional than 1,100 circumstances a few week after the MRTA took impact.