Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez continued his rollback of marijuana policies in the borough on Friday with the announcement of a new program to vacate low-level marijuana convictions.
Anyone convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession or unlawful possession — a violation — is eligible to file a motion asking to vacate it under the new program, Gonzalez’s office said. People who also hold convictions for certain violent felonies or sex offenses will not be eligible.
Gonzalez’s office estimates there are about 20,000 people who were convicted of one of the qualifying offenses since 1990.
The program’s launch comes following the district attorney’s decision to stop prosecuting most low-level marijuana possession and smoking charges. The move resulted in a 91 percent drop in prosecution rates for the first half of 2018, according to Gonzalez’s office.
The district attorney said on Friday that as his office moves away from prosecuting low-level marijuana possession charges, it is equally important not to forget about the people who have already suffered the consequences for conduct that is no longer being criminalized.
“That criminal record can seriously impede a person’s ability to get a job, education, housing and other important services,” Gonzalez said. “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 initiative, the first of its kind in the state, will be run in partnership with staff from Brooklyn Defender Services, the Legal Aid Society, the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law at NYU School of Law and Brooklyn Law School.
Gonzalez’s office will start accepting motions to vacate during a two-day event, called Begin Again, on Sept. 21 and 22. Legal consultation will also be available at the event, which will take place each day at the Lenox Road Baptist Church at 1356 Nostrand Ave. between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
After the motion is filled out, the district attorney’s office will review it before sending it to court. The district attorney’s office will then consent to the motion and ask that the conviction be vacated and the underlying charge dismissed.
Gonzalez also announced Friday his intention to wipe out 3,438 open warrants for low-level marijuana possession that were issued before Sept. 1, as the NYPD shifts toward issuing summonses and away from arresting New Yorkers caught smoking pot in public.