At Thessalonia Worship Center in Longwood on October 26th, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark vacated the warrants of 57 people who had missed a court date after being issued a summons.
The program, which offers a second chance for low-level offenders, allows those issued a warrant for their missed date to finally have their records cleared.
“This event is so good for the community,” said Stacey Anderson, who missed her court date after she was issued a summons for a minor marijuana charge. “I hate court rooms, but the process was so quick. They just took my basic information and I was done. It was over.”
Anderson, 27, was not able to go to court to respond to her summons because she could not take a day off from work, and as a result had a warrant issued for her.
“I just couldn’t make it; I just couldn’t take the time off,” she said.
In the “mobile courtroom,” a converted room inside the worship center, Mrs. Anderson was able to stand before Judge Bahaati Pitt as an assistant district attorney asked the court to drop the charges.
At a resource fair outside the courtroom, The Legal Aid Society handed out information about how to get prior marijuana convictions removed from their criminal records.
Because of new state decriminalization laws signed in August, offenders of certain low-level marijuana offenses can now have their records either sealed or removed entirely.
“Living with an outstanding summons warrant or unsealed low-level conviction presents daily challenges including access to employment, housing, or critical benefits,” Peter Jones, an attorney at The Legal Aid Society said in a statement.
Though events like these are held across the city by other DA’s offices in other boroughs, Clark believes that hers is particularly important because of the diversity – in both racial and economic terms – in the Bronx.
“There is disproportionate enforcement of minor violations in communities of color,” Clark said during the event. “Being able to spread compassion is the best way that I can help with enforcement in our community, and to bring fairness to the courts.”
Even those who did not have warrants were encouraged by the event, saying that it was a way for the community to come together, and for some to get another chance.
“It’s a good opportunity for them to have their records sealed. It really is so good for everyone in the neighborhood” said Mary Brown, a member of Thessalonia Baptist Church.
This is the third such event hosted by the Bronx DA’s office. The last held in 2017, where nearly 226 warrants were dropped, according to a statement.