The Brooklyn District Attorney will no longer prosecute most first-time offenders arrested for low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession.
The new policy, outlined by Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson on Tuesday, is meant to better utilize law enforcement resources and limit the number of people saddled with criminal records for a minor, non-violent offense.
Those offenders are disproportionally young men of color, the DA's office said.
Last year, the Brooklyn DA's office processed more then 8,500 cases where the top charge was a class B misdemeanor marijuana possession, Thompson said. Over two-thirds of those cases were dismissed by judges.
"Given that these cases are ultimately -- and predictably -- dismissed, the burdens that they pose on the system and the individual are difficult to justify. We are pouring money into an endeavor that produces no public safety benefit,” Thompson said in a statement.
The new policy applies to criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree, a misdemeanor for holding or burning the drug out in the open or for having more than 25 grams, which is a violation. If the defendant has no prior arrests or convictions, or a minor criminal record, and gave police their verifiable name and address, the Brooklyn DA won't prosecute.
Under the new policy, those arrested will be brought to a precinct and sent to central booking, awaiting arraignment in a holding cell, or given a desk appearance ticket. If the DA declines to prosecute, they will be released or sent a letter saying there is no court appearance. Fingerprints will be destroyed in both cases.
Here are some of the exceptions, per the Brooklyn DA's office, to the new marijuana arrest policy:
--If the defendant smoked marijuana in a public place, particularly if they were around children or near a park, playground, bus stop, subway or school yard
--If the defendant is 16 or 17 years old and "only recently taken up marijuana" (they'll be directed to a program and the case will be dismissed when it is completed)
--If the defendant has a criminal record that indicates they might act violent or dangerous while on marijuana, such as domestic violence or moving traffic violations
--If the defendant has an open warrant, must register as a sex offender or DNA must be collected and if the case involves a search warrant
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