In a single morning, New York City courts Wednesday threw out over 640,000 warrants for people who didn't show up in court or pay fines after being ticketed for minor offenses years ago. The move—requested by prosecutors and hailed by the mayor—marks a sweeping step in city officials' efforts to promote what they see as a more fair and workable approach to low-level offenses, the AP reports. The warrants date back a decade or longer and stem from summonses for nonviolent, small-scale offenses such as littering, open-container drinking, being in a park after hours, or walking an unleashed dog.
"Someone who owes a $25 fine should not be arrested and brought down to central booking and spend 20 or 24 hours in a cell next to a hardened criminal. That's not fair, and that's not justice," acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said after going to court himself to make the request and highlight the occasion, as did Bronx DA Darcel Clark and Manhattan DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr. Queens DA Richard Brown's office also participated. But Staten Island DA Michael McMahon steered clear. "I believe that issuing blanket amnesty for these offenses is unfair to those citizens who responsibly appear in court and sends the wrong message about the importance of respecting our community and our laws," he said. (Read more New York City stories.)