NY1: No ‘Clean Slate’ for Queens Residents

Tim Rountree, the Criminal Practice Head of the Queens Neighborhood Office, spoke to NY1 about how Queens is the only borough that does not have a “clean slate” program, an initiative offered everywhere else in the city that aims at helping people clear low-level offenses off their records and helps ease burdens on courts.

No ‘Clean Slate’ for Queens Residents
By Clodagh McGowan
April 24, 2017

Queens is the only borough in the city not offering a "clean slate" program to help people facing arrest clear low-level offenses off their records. The Legal Aid Society hopes to change that. NY1's Clodagh McGowan filed the following report.

Throughout the city, thousands of outstanding warrants have been dismissed through various programs designed to help people with minor crimes on their records to get a new lease on life.

But according to Tim Rountree, who heads the Legal Aid Society's Queens Criminal Offense Practice, these programs exist in every borough except Queens.

"All the other borough DA's offices help bring these programs to help clear warrants, low-level summonses or low-level offenses. And it's a mystery to why Queens County doesn't have one," said Rountree.

Rountree says Brooklyn District Attorney's office runs the "Begin Again" program, the Bronx has "Another Chance", Staten Island has "Fresh Start" and Manhattan offers the "Clean Slate" program. He says the open warrants slow down the already over-burdened court systems and leave the individuals with a nagging fear.

"For the most part they're afraid, once they realize they missed a court date and they realize 'wow, what did I do now? Who do I go, if I go back to court? Do I go to Rikers? Do I get bail set?' It's a way of clearing out the system, it's beneficial for not only the citizens of the borough, but also the court system and the DA's office," said Rountree.

The Legal Aid Society offers free consultation at these clean slate events. According to the Brooklyn DA's office, they've cleared more than 2,000 warrants since 2015.

"Over time, if you do many of these programs, hundreds, if not thousands of people will benefit," said Rountree.

A spokesperson for the Queens District Attorney's Office said there is an active conversation about bringing a program of this kind to the borough. ​

This article originally appeared on NY1.