Clean Slate Offers New Yorkers A Fresh Start; Manhattan CDP Helps Hundreds Who Line Up For Help
At Clean Slate From left: Staff Attorney Elizabeth Alcocor-Gonzalez; Staff Attorney Jane White; Irwin Shaw, Attorney-in-Charge of the Manhattan office of the Criminal Practice; Staff Attorney Carly Bisceglie; and Supervising Attorney Olayinka Dan-Salami.

New Yorkers with open warrants on summons offenses lined up outside the Soul saving Station Church in Harlem to receive a second chance.

Some 50 Legal Aid staffers were on hand to help with the Manhattan District Attorney's Clean Slate program. Irwin Shaw, Attorney-in-Charge of the Manhattan CDP Office, and David Kapner, Supervising Attorney, led the Legal Aid effort.

All levels of staff participated, counseling people, offering advice and helping them through the process.

New York Law Journal
Warrant Amnesty Program Scheduled in Manhattan
Andrew Keshner, New York Law Journal
November 19, 2015

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office will participate in its first warrant amnesty event this Saturday.

The office announced the event on Tuesday with the Office of Court Administration, New York City Police Department and the Legal Aid Society.

The "Clean Slate" program—applying to open warrants on summons offenses—will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Soul Saving Station Church on the corner of West 124th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

Apart from extinguishing the outstanding warrants, summonses can be resolved through adjournments in contemplation of dismissal issued at the event without fines or other penalties.

The event will include a resource fair with on-site offerings like healthcare information and referral services.

"Open warrants can weigh heavily on those who carry them due to the constant risk of arrest following a police encounter," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. said in a statement.

"Even for minor violations like littering or drinking in public, open warrants can affect the warrant holder's immigration status, and even his or her ability to get a job or enlist in the armed forces," he said.

Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson's office has run similar forgiveness events, which built on a program started under the administration of former District Attorney Charles Hynes.

Brooklyn District Attorney spokeswoman Charisma Troiano said in two "Begin Again" programs held this year, 1,327 summons warrants were cleared.

Another Brooklyn event is scheduled for Dec. 5 at the Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church, 228 Decatur Street, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Bronx District Attorney-elect Darcel Clark has said she would consider her office's participation in warrant exonerations for small offenses (NYLJ, Oct. 14).

Hundreds of New Yorkers Line Up for "Clean Slate" Program to Clear Low-Level Warrants and Summonses In Harlem
By Bree Driscoll
Updated Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Fresh start and a clean slate for both the accused and the justice system were the main reasons why dozens lined up outside a building in Harlem Saturday — eager to clear their names of low-level offense summons and warrants. NY1's Bree Driscoll explains how it worked.

Upper west Side Resident Ronald Townsend showed up to the Soul Saving Station in Harlem Saturday so he can move on with his life.

"I am out here today because I have a warrant with the open container and I keep getting pulled over for it so I am going to get it over with because I am getting ready to go back to work and do things so I just want to get that over with," Townsend said.

He says the warrant has been holding him back.

"Oh, I got arrested three times for it."

He hopes to end that cycle at the Clean Slate event. Here individuals can resolve low level summonses for things like drinking in public and disorderly conduct and have any warrants associated with these offenses forgiven.

"The purpose of this event is to have people with minor minor infractions people who didn't show up in courts for whatever reason get a clean slate," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. " From a DA's perspective it enables us to focus our efforts on the more serious cases and get rid of the cases that don't really belong in criminal court."

The Legal Aid Society was also on hand to counsel individuals, represent them, and help them understand the process.

"They think of it administratively, they've got to pay a fine, they can mail it in, they forget," said Irwin Shaw with Legal Aid Society. "So I don't think they realize that this has significance as well."

The Manhattan District Attorney's office also sent out 3,000 letters to individuals with low level summonses encouraging them to attend the event. A move that paid off with hundreds of people showing up.

"It frees a lot of people," said Brooklyn resident Jaimie Pierson. "It is very stressful when you know you have a warrant out for your arrest."

"I am just elated," said Manhattan resident Michael Stewart. "You know it is just a weight off my back because honestly I couldn't afford it."

This was the first event of its kind in Manhattan. District Attorney Vance says judging by its success he hopes to hold more of these events and possibly make it a quarterly occurrence.

"See if we can make a dent in this back log of cases," the DA said.

While the free event was held in Manhattan it was open to individuals from all five Boroughs.