In low-level marijuana circumstances, prosecutions down but racial disparities up — The Legal Help Society


Noah Goldberg

Might 10, 2019

Low-level marijuana prosecutions are way down in Brooklyn compared to final year, but enormous racial disparities in arrests for the charges persist citywide, according to information from The Legal Help Society and The Police Reform Organizing Project.

All round, low-level marijuana possession arrest numbers have been substantially down to get started 2019 due to the NYPD’s 2018 policy of providing out summonses alternatively of arrests in most circumstances involving smoking in public. Regardless of the decrease arrest numbers, black and hispanic New Yorkers have been nevertheless arrested at disproportionately higher prices for low-level possession all through the city, according to information from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Solutions, offered by the NYPD.

In the initially 3 months of 2019, 294 black persons and 147 hispanic persons have been arrested for marijuana possession in the fifth degree, producing up 93 % of arrests on the charge. Final year – for the duration of the similar period – two,006 black persons have been arrested for the charge. Regardless of the enormous reduction in quantity of arrests, black persons created up a greater percentage of the arrests for the charge in the initially 3 months of 2019 – from 49 % in 2018 to 62 % in 2019.

Meanwhile, just 20 white persons have been arrested citywide in the initially 3 months of 2019 for fifth-degree marijuana possession, which is charged for smoking in a public location or possessing much more than 25 grams of marijuana. White persons created up just four.two % of persons arrested, down from seven % in the similar period final year.

The Legal Help Society, which offers counsel to about half of the city’s population living below the poverty line, only represented 63 defendants for unlawful possession of marijuana in the fourth and fifth degree in Brooklyn involving January and April, compared to 828 for the duration of the similar period in 2018, according to the organization’s statistics. Prosecutions for marijuana possession are down in all 5 boroughs compared to the initially 4 months of final year.

A spokesperson for Brooklyn District Lawyer Eric Gonzalez cited the office’s 2018 policy of only prosecuting low-level marijuana circumstances when persons pose a threat to public security — by driving with burning marijuana in the vehicle or developing a public nuisance by smoking on public transportation or in a schoolyard – for the drastic reduction in prosecutions.

“This assists the communities from not becoming subjected to more than-criminalization for marijuana possession,” Anthony Posada, the supervising lawyer of the Neighborhood Justice Unit at Legal Help, stated of the steep decline in prosecutions of low-level marijuana possession in Brooklyn. “It also assists the NYPD that is seeking to construct itself as a location exactly where persons can trust them and what they do.”

Legal Help Consumers Charged with Unlawful, Fourth- and Fifth-Degree Marijuana Possession

The information represents circumstances exactly where the best charge was fourth degree, fifth degree or unlawful marijuana possession, The Legal Help Society stated.

“The lower in prosecutions for low-level marijuana possession is a important improvement from final year, nonetheless, till marijuana is legal, the NYPD will continue to use marijuana as a pretext to quit, frisk, and arrest Black and Latinx persons at a disproportionate price,” Jacqueline Caruana, senior trial lawyer at Brooklyn Defender Solutions told the Brooklyn Eagle in a statement.

In its personal information shared with the Eagle, Brooklyn Defender Solutions stated they represented 24 persons charged with fifth-degree marijuana possession in the initially 4 months of 2019, as opposed to 379 in the similar period in 2018.

For fourth-degree marijuana possession – which is charged when an individual possesses involving two and eight ounces of the drug – Brooklyn Defender Solutions essentially represented much more defendants involving January and April in 2019 than the year ahead of.

The group represented 16 persons in the initially 4 months of 2019 and only nine in the similar time final year for fourth-degree marijuana possession.


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