beginagain

Begin Again Continues in 2017

First Begin Again Event of 2017 Offered Latest Chance to Clear Summons Warrants

Building on the success of 2016, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office brought Begin Again to Bedford-Stuyvesant this April to give Brooklyn residents an opportunity to deal with summonses for low-level offenses quickly and easily right in their community. These summons warrants – ordered when people fail to answer a ticket for minor quality of life offenses such as drinking alcohol in public or being in a park after closing – have ballooned into a total of over a million in New York City, with about a quarter originating in Brooklyn. These open warrants weigh down an overburdened courts system and can hold back individuals who have them on their records.

Of the 3,248 Begin Again participants who have attended events so far, no one has been arrested and all have received consultation with attorneys from Legal Aid on how to resolve their warrants and on any other legal issues they had.

Begin Again

Over 3,000 New Yorkers Attended, Over 2,100 Warrants Cleared in First Five Events

With an April 2017 event at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant and four previous events at Brooklyn churches dating back to 2015, the Begin Again initiative has helped over 3,000 New Yorkers and cleared more than 2,100 outstanding summons warrants to date. The Legal Aid Society was on hand for each event to meet with all participants before they entered the courtroom, and over 30 different organizations have been part of resource fairs held at the churches.

Acting DA Eric Gonzalez greets Begin Again attendees at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in April 2017

Leading up to the fifth Begin Again event in April 2017, Acting DA Eric Gonzalez said, “Our Begin Again initiative has been a tremendous success in helping thousands of New Yorkers resolve their outstanding summonses. I am committed to giving the people of Brooklyn a new start by helping them remove the threat of an arrest and other negative consequences associated with an open summons warrant. I encourage everyone, including members of our immigrant communities, to take advantage of this program, which also fosters trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve.”

The events have all seen a steady stream of individuals coming to the churches, almost all of whom were able to resolve their open warrants and underlying summons cases within two hours. Even when the line stretched to nearly the end of the block, people moved seamlessly from Legal Aid, to the sanctuary waiting room, to the makeshift courtroom, where a judge cleared their warrants and disposed of their cases. The community, the courts, prosecutors and police all came together to achieve this common good. When kicking off Begin Again in June 2015, the late District Attorney Thompson noted that Emmanuel Baptist Church became, for one day, “a sanctuary of justice.”

At that first event, elected officials and leaders from the NYPD, the courts and Legal Aid were present to announce the important event. “This initiative is a win-win for all involved and a good first step toward our goal of preventing nuisance offenses from ruining the lives of our young people across New York City,” U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries said during a press conference by the church.

New York City Criminal Court Administrative Judge Melissa Jackson said in a statement: “We encourage individuals with outstanding summons warrants to take full advantage of this opportunity to vacate their warrants and dispose of their cases in this accessible and supportive environment.”

In fact, of the 3,248 Begin Again participants who have attended the first five events, no one was arrested and all received consultation with attorneys from Legal Aid on how to resolve their warrants and on any other legal issues they had.

“Our criminal justice system should be a foundation that stabilizes our community, not an anchor that weighs us down,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “The cooperative, non-confrontational process of Begin Again will foster trust in the New York City legal system and help numerous individuals who have been victimized by the crackdown on low-level offenses.”

Added Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams: “After patrolling our streets for 22 years as an NYPD officer, I know first-hand that we cannot tolerate quality-of-life disturbances. Still, we can all agree that the punishment must fit the offense.”

The success of the first five Begin Again events – with participants showing up from all around the city – highlights the importance of this ongoing initiative to enhance equal justice and improve our courts’ operations for the benefit of all New Yorkers.

For more information, check out Twitter: @BeginAgainBklyn #BeginAgainBklyn


PARTNERS

  •  The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office
  •  Clergy, Elected Officials, and other Community Leaders
  •  Office of Court Administration
  •  New York City Police Department
  •  The Legal Aid Society

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  1. I am a Brooklyn resident, but I received a summons in another borough, can I have my warrant vacated at Begin Again?
    – Yes. All summons warrants issued in New York City qualify. Warrant holders from all five boroughs are eligible to come.
  2. I am not a Brooklyn resident and I did not receive my summons in Brooklyn; can I have my warrant vacated at Begin Again?
    – Yes. All summons warrants issued in New York City qualify. Warrant holders from all five boroughs are eligible to come.
  3. I received a letter in the mail stating that I have a summons warrant. Does this mean that I have to come to Begin Again?
    -You are not required to attend Begin Again. Those who received a letter from the courts did so based on the Office of Court Administration’s records indicating an open summons warrant. All low level summons warrants can be resolved at Begin Again. Letter holders will receive expedited admittance to the courtroom site.
  4. Will only letter holders receive expedited admittance to the courtroom?
    -No. You can preregister for expedited admittance by going to www.BrooklynDA.org/BeginAgain
  5. I have not received a letter about Begin Again, may I still attend?
    – Yes. All low-level summons warrants qualify. Please preregister to expedite the handling of your matter.
  6. I lost my summons. Can I still attend?
    -Yes. The court will have access to all summons warrants dated before November 7, 2015.
  7. I have a transit related summons. Can I have it resolved at Begin Again?
    -No. You must go to http://web.mta.info/nyct/rules/TransitAdjudicationBureau/ContactTAB.htm to resolve your transit related summons.
  8. I have a summons warrant for an offense that is not listed on your flyer; can I still have my warrant cleared at Begin Again?
    – Yes. All low level summons warrants qualify.
  9. My summons offense has been resolved, but it has never been cleared from my record. Can this issue be cleared from my record at Begin Again?
    –Legal Aid will be on site and can counsel you as to your best course of action.
  10. What happens if I have a more serious offense on my record and I come to Begin Again?
    – Legal Aid will be on site and can counsel you as to how you can handle your misdemeanor or felony warrant.
  11. I have been re-arrested multiple times for summons related warrants on my record; does this arrest history exclude me from Begin Again?
    – No. Your arrest history will not prohibit you from attending Begin Again.
  12. What other resources are available at Begin Again events?
    –Resources available on site relate to job training, healthcare provision, education, legal assistance, and general social service assistance.
  13. I received a summons very recently and my court date has not yet passed. Can I address the summons at Begin Again?
    –For the upcoming Begin Again, on April 14th and 15th, any summons dated before March 24th will be heard by the court.
  14. Do I need to take identification with me to Begin Again?
    – Yes. You will need a form of photo identification.
  15. Can I address someone else’s warrant at Begin Again?
    – No. The Judge will only consider cases where the individual in question is present.
  16. Can I bring family members with me to Begin Again?
    – Only warrant holders are allowed in the Begin Again court room. Family members are welcome on the rest of the event grounds, including the resource fair.
  17. I am an undocumented immigrant. Can I come to Begin Again?
    -Yes. Your immigration status will not prevent you from having your low level summons warrant resolved at Begin Again.
  18. Once I resolve my warrant at Begin Again, will it still appear on my criminal record?
    -You will immediately receive a disposition letter from the Court showing that your warrant has been vacated and erased from your record. It may take several days for your digital records to be updated. In the interim, it will be important to keep the disposition letter on your person.

EVENT DETAILS

 

Check back soon for details on the next Begin Again event.


QUALIFYING OFFENSES

The following are just some of the outstanding summons/warrants that can be resolved:

  •  Drinking Alcohol in Public
  •  Disorderly Conduct
  •  Public Urination
  •  Being in the Park after Closing
  •  Riding a Bicycle on the Sidewalk
  •  Loitering
  •  Unlawful Possession of Marijuana
  •  Trespassing
  •  Spitting
  •  Unleashed dog
  •  Littering
  •  Failure to Have a Dog License
  •  Making Unreasonable Noise
  •  Animal Nuisance
  •  Unlawful Possession of Alcohol (Under the Age of 21)

Again, this is not a complete list of summons-related offenses that can be addressed. All warrants connected to summonses are eligible for Begin Again.

In addition to offering participants support as they navigate the process of resolving their warrants, we will also host a neighborhood resource fair outside the Church during the hours of the event. We have received the commitment of many local community-based organizations that will be present to offer vital information related to job training, legal issues, and health.


CONTACT

Begin Again Hotline: 718-250-3888


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