NYC dis­misses mi­nor war­rants

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS -

NEW YORK — City courts Wed­nes­day threw out over 640,000 war­rants for peo­ple who didn’t show up in court or pay fines af­ter be­ing tick­eted for mi­nor of­fenses years ago.

The move — re­quested by pros­e­cu­tors and hailed by the mayor — marks a sweep­ing step in city of­fi­cials’ ef­forts to pro­mote what they see as a more fair and work­able ap­proach to low-level of­fenses. But one of the city’s five district at­tor­neys said the dis­missals sent a prob­lem­atic sig­nal about law-break­ing.

Ap­plause broke out among politi­cians, clergy mem­bers and oth­ers gath­ered in a Brook­lyn court­room af­ter 143,532 war­rants there were cleared in no longer than the time it took Crim­i­nal Court Judge Fred­er­ick Ar­riaga to say: “The court will grant the mo­tion to dis­miss each case for the fur­ther­ance of jus­tice.”

“Some­one who owes a $25 fine should not be ar­rested and brought down to cen­tral book­ing and spend 20 or 24 hours in a cell next to a hard­ened crim­i­nal. That’s not fair, and that’s not jus­tice,” act­ing Brook­lyn District At­tor­ney Eric Gon­za­lez said af­ter go­ing to court him­self to make the re­quest and high­light the oc­ca­sion, as did Bronx District At­tor­ney Dar­cel Clark and Man­hat­tan District At­tor­ney Cyrus Vance Jr. Queens District At­tor­ney Richard Brown’s of­fice also par­tic­i­pated.

But Staten Is­land’s district at­tor­ney, Michael McMa­hon, steered clear.

“I be­lieve that is­su­ing blan­ket amnesty for these of­fenses is un­fair to those cit­i­zens who re­spon­si­bly ap­pear in court and sends the wrong mes­sage about the im­por­tance of re­spect­ing our com­mu­nity and our laws,” he said in a state­ment, not­ing that he’s sup­ported ini­tia­tives that in­vite peo­ple to ap­pear in per­son to clear their records.

The war­rants date back a decade or longer and stem from sum­monses for non­vi­o­lent, small-scale of­fenses.

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