Bronx DA Slow To Drop Open Marijuana Cases After Legalization, Public Defenders Say


Marijuana was legalized greater than a month in the past, but some New Yorkers nonetheless have open instances or warrants associated to marijuana costs that depart them weak to arrest and different involvement with the justice system. 

Every district legal professional’s workplace within the 5 boroughs has its personal course of for dismissing pending marijuana costs in gentle of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which was signed into state regulation on March thirty first—and it appears some are transferring faster than others.

The Bronx Defenders despatched a letter to Bronx District Lawyer Darcel Clark’s workplace on April twentieth—three weeks after the regulation was handed—urging her to start appearing in accordance with the regulation. The letter estimated there have been “tons of” of pending instances within the Bronx through which probably the most critical costs had been legal sale or possession of an quantity of marijuana that’s now authorized or lowered to a violation below the MRTA.

“These instances are hanging over individuals’s heads,” stated Eli Northrup, an legal professional with the Bronx Defenders.

Open marijuana instances within the Bronx embody 41 through which individuals have already been arraigned on costs and have court docket dates arising, based on the Bronx Defenders.

In addition they embody instances through which somebody was arrested and given a desk look ticket to point out up in court docket, the place they are going to both be formally charged or their case can be dismissed. They usually embody warrants that had been issued for an individual’s arrest as a result of they failed to look in court docket or pay a advantageous. In line with Northrup, that is possible the most important class because it might embody warrants going again many years.

A spokesperson for the Bronx D.A.’s workplace stated, “We’re responding to the laws, and trying to dismiss the related instances.” The spokesperson declined to supply extra particulars on the method or timeline for dropping instances.

Because the MRTA was handed, many judges have been dismissing marijuana costs when purchasers seem in court docket, stated Ruben Fernandez, one other legal professional with Bronx Defenders. If somebody had been convicted of a marijuana cost that’s not against the law, it will be robotically expunged below the brand new regulation. 

However unresolved authorized points can nonetheless have critical penalties.

If somebody has an open warrant, for example, meaning they are often arrested if they’re stopped by a police officer.

“However clearing a warrant is a course of,” stated Fernandez, noting that it needs to be accomplished in particular person. “Typically you don’t have any thought when you’ve got a warrant.”

Court docket dates may also be a burden. “It means you lose work,” Fernandez stated. “It means you want youngster care. It is likely to be simpler now as a result of you’ll be able to seem nearly, however what in the event you don’t have digital capabilities?” 

Gothamist/WNYC reached out to different district attorneys’ places of work within the metropolis to ask about their progress in dismissing open marijuana instances. The Queens and Staten Island district attorneys’ places of work didn’t reply to requests for remark. A spokesperson for the Queens Defenders stated the district legal professional’s workplace is “dismissing weed instances in Queens. Slowly, however they’re.”

A spokesperson for Brooklyn District Lawyer Eric Gonzalez stated in a press release, “We don’t intend to submit marijuana costs to juries or grand juries. We additionally intend to dismiss pending marijuana offenses which can be authorized below the regulation in the midst of court docket proceedings.”

The workplace of Manhattan District Lawyer Cyrus Vance was the one one to supply particulars on the method. The workplace is dismissing pending costs on a rolling foundation, primarily based on the person’s scheduled court docket date, a spokesperson stated. She added that the D.A. is working with the Workplace of Court docket Administration to compile an inventory of related warrants and can “vacate these warrants and dismiss the costs en masse as soon as that’s full, which we hope can be within the close to future.”

In the meantime, the neighboring Nassau County District Lawyer took motion to vacate warrants in additional than 1,100 instances a couple of week after the MRTA took impact.