Now that the New York Police Department has been forced by the powers that be to focus their energy on fighting actual crime instead of busting stoners for petty pot possession, several local attorneys have come forward with concerns about how the newly-imposed toker tickets might violate the civil rights of some citizens.
Although the majority of the city seems pleased with Mayor de Blasio’s decision to implement a 37-year-old New York state cite-and-release law, making possession of less than 25 grams of weed punishable with a $100 fine, legal experts claim the new law will back up the court system like a junkie with a spiritual affinity for painkillers – giving offenders very little opportunity to defend their innocence.
“What we have learned in our case is that the police department gets no feedback whatsoever or, at least, does not communicate any feedback from the summons courts when there are constitutional violations going on with the summonses,” attorney Gerald Cohen told NY1. “And I think that is just going to be exacerbated by the marijuana being shifted to summonses court.”
The problem, according to some civil rights attorneys, is that summons court, where all of NYC’s pot offenders will now go to pay the piper, does not come equipped with the same “checks and balances” as criminal court. Unfortunately, this will pose some issues with determining if there was “enough probable cause to stop and seize marijuana from someone, so a lot of that stuff is going to be pushed under the table without any oversight,” said Cohen.
There were concerns last week that all pot offenders would be required to report to a centralized hub in lower Manhattan to fight their marijuana citations, but it has since been announced that each borough will provide citizens with individual sites for which to defend themselves. However, attorney Joshua Fitch argues that it will be next to impossible for public defenders to properly handle the workload, which will cause them to move these cases in and out as quickly as possible.
“They are dealing with these cases on an assembly line basis, one right after the other—almost no consideration. And that is not to speak of the attorney, it is just to speak of the process itself,” he said.
It is important to remember that receiving a citation for marijuana possession in New York City is no longer a criminal offense, so there is no chance of these violations having an impact on the future of an individual.