New York has progressed so far in recent years that getting busted for minor offenses like drinking on the street, smoking weed in front of a cop or taking a nice long post-bar piss in an alleyway fall in the category of “not that bad” punishments (well, if you’re white, at least). At the same time, other things you can still get ticketed for like riding your bike on the sidewalk or letting your dog go off-leash are still as annoying as ever. All of these can compound into a headache of warrants, unpaid fines and general NYPD harassment that could stay on your record for years or eventually get you arrested. These are also the kinds of cases weighing down the overburdened court system and delaying the actually important crimes that need to be handled.
Luckily, there is a way to get your low-level offenses taken care of without too much hassle. This weekend, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office is bringing its Begin Again program to Bed-Stuy to give Brooklynites and everyone in the city a chance to deal with summonses for low-level offenses quickly and get a clean record without having to navigate the city’s entire complex legal system.
The first Begin Again of the year will be held tomorrow, April 14, and Saturday, April 15, from 9am–3pm at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, 212 Tompkins Ave.
The event is meant for people who failed to respond to a ticket (ie you forgot to pay or are refusing to pay out of protest/in solidarity with your privilege) and are facing possible arrest, which an officer is forced to do if they come into contact with you (at a traffic stop, for instance). Inside the church will be a “sanctuary of justice” with attorneys from Legal Aid who will consult on how to resolve warrants or other legal issues. Then you go to a makeshift courtroom, where a judge will clear warrants and dispose of the cases, which means you can go about your life with a clean slate, which is useful for when you seek out financial aid, look for public housing or apply for a job; plus, you won’t be at threat of arrest when you’re walking around the street.
Almost 2,600 people have attended these events since they began in 2015, and as a result over 1,700 warrants have been cleared and no attendees have been arrested, according to the D.A.’s office. See the full details here.
Pre-register here to expedite your visit.
Qualifying offenses include:
Drinking Alcohol in Public
Being in the Park after Closing
Riding a Bicycle on the Sidewalk
Unlawful Possession of Marijuana
Failure to Have a Dog License
Making Unreasonable Noise
Unlawful Possession of Alcohol (Under the Age of 21)
— Sheri Scott (@foreverursbetty) April 11, 2015