NYC dismisses minor warrants
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.