Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez has successfully asked the court system to vacate 857 open bench warrants related to prostitution and loitering for the purposes of prostitution — two charges his office no longer prosecutes.
The 857 warrants that were dismissed on Wednesday were issued between 1970 and 2011. On Jan. 29, 2021, the district attorney vacated 262 warrants from 2012 to the present and moved to dismiss the underlying cases. In all, 1,119 cases have now been dismissed, representing the entire outstanding inventory in Brooklyn. The district attorney also called on legislators to expunge old prostitution-related convictions.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “With today’s action, we have cleared all open prostitution and loitering for the purposes of prostitution cases in Brooklyn. My Office no longer prosecutes these offenses because we believe that that those who engage in these activities should be offered assistance, not criminally prosecuted. Open warrants have powerful negative consequences for the individual, and they undermine public safety. Someone with an open warrant is subject to arrest at any time, making them more likely to be driven underground and less likely to report abuse or other crimes.
“In addition, an outstanding warrant could show up years after it was issued in a background check for an apartment rental or a job application, hamstringing someone’s ability to move on from their past to a more stable way of life. I thank the legislature for repealing the vaguely written and unevenly enforced statute of loitering for the purposes of prostitution and renew my call on lawmakers to expunge past prostitution-related convictions so they will not hold people back from opportunities for a better future.”
On Wednesday, DA Gonzalez appeared before Brooklyn Criminal Court Supervising Judge Keisha Espinal and requested that the 857 outstanding warrants be vacated and their underlying cases dismissed. Some 296 of those warrants pertained to cases with a top count of prostitution (PL 230.00), and 561 were for a top count of loitering for the purposes of prostitution (PL 240.37).
Of the cases disposed of in January, 183 were for prostitution and 79 for loitering for the purposes of prostitution.
Following the January dismissals in Brooklyn, the New York State Legislature repealed the loitering for purposes of prostitution law and two other counties, the Bronx and Queens, dismissed outstanding warrants pertaining to that statute.
The district attorney said that the Brooklyn DA’s Office does not prosecute those arrested for engaging in prostitution, but rather refers them to services and dismisses their cases. Starting in 2020, when the law mandated that those arrested receive desk appearance tickets with a future court appearance, the office has endeavored to connect them with service providers and dismiss the charges before they even have to appear in court.
Common services involve therapeutic counseling, medical assistance and checkups, educational services, housing assistance, mental health or substance abuse screening and therapy, and legal assistance with immigration, children’s services or family court issues.–>
Cases get dismissed whether individuals avail themselves of services or not. The office processed fewer than 30 prostitution cases last year.
There are 25,575 convictions in Brooklyn for the two aforementioned offenses, dating back to 1975. Expunging them en masse is a legislative prerogative, and the district attorney called on legislators to pass a bill that would do just that.
The District Attorney thanked the Office of Court Administration, especially Justin Barry, chief clerk of New York City Criminal Court; Charles Blaha, acting borough chief clerk of Brooklyn Criminal Court, and Keshia Espinal, supervising judge of Brooklyn Criminal Court, for facilitating the dismissals.br