A new leaf: DA to begin vacating some misdemeanor pot convictions

Top prosecutor: Gov. Cuomo announced that Eric Gonzalez will remain the borough’s District Attorney until the 2017 election.
Brooklyn District Attorney’s office

It’s puff, puff, free pass in Kings County!

District Attorney Eric Gonzalez is giving some convicted stoners a chance to clear their record with a new policy that takes a retroactive approach to decriminalizing marijuana.

Brooklyn’s top prosecutor said he will start vacating certain lesser pot convictions this month, following his decision earlier this year to stop prosecuting many folks caught toking in public in an expansion of the non-prosecution policy implemented in 2014 by his predecessor, the late Ken Thompson.

“As we move away from criminalizing low-level possession and use of marijuana, we cannot forget those who carry a conviction for conduct that is no longer being prosecuted,” 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.”

Brooklynites already convicted of misdemeanor marijuana offenses can clear their records by attending one of the district attorney’s Begin Again events — another Thompson-instituted initiative that gives folks a chance to get rid of outstanding summonses — at which defense lawyers will assist them in filing motions that Gonzalez’s office will review before taking to court, where prosecutors will consent to vacating the conviction and dropping the underlying charges.

Folks seeking to expunge their convictions do not have to go before a judge, according to Gonzalez’s spokesman Oren Yaniv, who noted his boss’s new policy is the first of its kind in the state.

The record cleaning does not extend to all stoners, however — people convicted of smoking while driving, as well as anyone convicted of a sex offense or certain violent felonies can not submit motions under the new policy.

Gonzalez will start vacating wacky tobaccy–related convictions at a Sept. 21–22 Begin Again session, when he said he plans to vacate 3,438 open warrants for pot busts that occurred before Sept. 1, when the city started issuing summonses instead of arresting folks caught lighting up in public under a mayoral policy instituted in June.

Get your record cleaned at Lenox Road Baptist Church [1356 Nostrand Ave. between Lenox Road and Linden Boulevard in Flatbush, (718) 941–3359] Sept. 21 and 22, 9 am to 3 pm.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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