Weeding them out: DA clearing low-level marijuana convictions at two upcoming events

Clean livin’: Criminal Court Judge Abena Darkeh dismisses summonses in a makeshift courtroom at Lenox Hill Baptist Church on September 21, in an affair similar to two upcoming events, where locals can go to clear low-level pot convictions.
Photo by Michael Simpson

Many Kings County stoners with misdemeanor pot convictions can clear their criminal records at two free events that Brooklyn’s top prosecutor is hosting next week in Flatbush and Bedford-Stuyvesant.

The Dec. 11 and 15 amnesty sessions will be staffed by defense attorneys available to counsel convicts with low-level pot-possession charges, and fill out legal documents on their behalf, which District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’s office will then review, before prosecutors head to court and request the judge vacate their convictions.

The events follow a similar September session where Gonzalez used his authority to clear misdemeanor pot charges, and come amid his ongoing effort to overrule state weed laws by refusing to prosecute most marijuana-possession and public-smoking arrests, claiming they disproportionately affect black and Hispanic men.

Low-level weed charges can seriously affect a person’s life, complicating one’s ability to secure loans, obtain work, lease a residence, and even keep custody of their children, according to a top legal eagle at Brooklyn Defender Services, which, along with the Legal Aid Society, partnered with Gonzalez for the amnesty events.

“Anyone who has a conviction for marijuana should come to one of the clinics and get legal advice about their eligibility to have that conviction removed from their record,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf. “These convictions have a wide-reaching impact on many people.”

The consultations at the forthcoming events are relatively quick considering their end result of a clean record, according to Gonzalez’s spokesman Oren Yaniv, who said most people won’t spend more than 15 minutes with a lawyer before they’re good to go. Participants are also free to waive their right to appear in court, leaving it up to prosecutors to advocate on their behalf, Yaniv said.

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.

Get your record cleared at Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright’s office [1360 Fulton St. between New York and Brooklyn avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Room 417, (718) 399-7630] on Dec. 11, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.

Or at SUNY Downstate Medical Center [450 Clarkson Ave. between New York Avenue and E 37th Street in Flatbush, (718) 270-1000] on Dec. 15, from 10 am to 12 pm.

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

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