Brooklyn DA to stop prosecuting first-time, minor pot possession arrests
Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson took a bold step in reshaping drug policies in his borough yesterday, announcing his office will no longer prosecute most first-time offenders arrested for possessing small amounts of pot.
Thompson followed through with his campaign promise to change the office's policy on low-level drug arrests, contending the thousands of cases created an unnecessary legal burden.
Last year, the Brooklyn district attorney's office processed 8,500 misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, the majority of those charged, he noted, were minorities, but more than two-thirds of the cases were dismissed.
"The processing of these cases exacts a cost on the criminal justice system and takes a toll on the individual," he said in a statement. "Given that these cases are ultimately -- and predictably -- dismissed, the burdens that they pose on the system and the individual are difficult to justify."
Under the new policy, individuals arrested carrying 25 grams or less of marijuana and who have a minimal criminal background will have the cases dismissed. Exceptions will be made if the suspect is arrested for openly smoking pot in public, or if a criminal background shows the person will act in a dangerous manner while under the influence.
Those arrested who are 16 or 17 will be directed to a program under the adolescent court.
Mayor Bill de Blasio's office didn't return messages for comment. A spokesman for the Queens district attorney's office declined to comment while a representative for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.'s office said he has urged Albany to loosen the marijuana laws in the past.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he respected Thompson's decision but wouldn't change any police procedures when it comes to pot arrests.