Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz on Tuesday asked the New York City borough’s criminal court to dismiss and seal more than 3,200 low-level cannabis possession cases, Gothamist reports. The request includes 894 active cases with defendants currently awaiting arraignment and another 2,361 cases for which summons were issued and have outstanding warrants.
“There’s no point spending criminal justice resources on decriminalized behavior. But at the same time, a lot of our cases today are open warrants and open warrants are very dangerous to have on your record. … This is just a step we took to bring a little more fairness into the system, to make the system better and more equitable in the borough of Queens. There’s thousands of people now who don’t have warrants when they are stopped by the police. That’s game changing.”—Katz to Gothamist
The judge stayed the request order for 90 days, meaning the action will take at least that long to be finalized in the system.
Earlier this month, Bronx DA Darcel Clarke dismissed more than 6,000 misdemeanor cannabis cases where the primary charge was possession or sale. Officials in Brooklyn and Manhattan have also tossed similar cases following the legalization reforms passed by lawmakers in March. A spokesman for the Staten Island district attorney told Gothamist that the office is working with the court to dismiss more than 1,100 low-level cannabis cases dating back to the 1980s.
Hettie Powell, the managing director of the Queens Defenders, described the move as a “great, important event.”
“Most of the people who have been arrested and charged and pleaded guilty with marijuana possession are people of color,” she said in an interview with Gothamist. “Now, when these convictions are dismissed, it’ll give them the opportunity to go get jobs that they couldn’t have gotten before, based on their criminal convictions.”
Exclusive offer from our sponsor:
Get daily news insights in your inbox. Subscribe