Scott Hechinger Profile picture
May 13, 2018 14 tweets 3 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
NYPD always claims that it’s complaints (911 & 311 calls) that drive racially disproportionate marijuana arrests. Nope. As we legalization advocates been screaming about for years, it’s actually just racism. See: this important @nytimes study out today.
“Across the city, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at 8 times the rate of white people over the last 3 years. Hispanic people were arrested at 5 times rate of white people. In Manhattan, Black people were arrested at 15 times the rate of white people.”
“In Brooklyn, officers in the precinct covering Canarsie arrested people at a rate more than 4 times as high as in the precinct that includes Greenpoint, despite residents calling 311/911 to complain about marijuana at same rate. Canarsie is 85% black. Greenpoint is 4% black.”
“In Queens, marijuana arrest rate is more than 10X as high in the precinct covering Queens Village as it is in precinct serving Forest Hills. Both got marijuana complaints at same rate, but Queens Village is just over half black. Forest Hills = tiny portion of black residents.”
“In Manhattan, officers covering a stretch of west Harlem make marijuana arrests at 2X rate of counterparts covering the northern Upper West Side. Both received complaints at same rate, but the western Harlem has double the percentage of black residents as the Upper West Side.”
These numbers don’t just hold in primarily black and Hispanic neighborhoods. In predominately white neighborhoods, people of color represent an outsized share of marijuana arrests.
“In the precinct covering the southern part of the Upper West Side, white residents outnumber their black and Hispanic neighbors by six to one, yet seven out of every 10 people charged with marijuana possession in the last three years are black or Hispanic.”
“In the precinct covering Park Slope, Brooklyn, where a fifth of the residents are black or Hispanic, three-quarters of those arrested on marijuana charges are black or Hispanic.”
Now, all of these numbers are based on the NYPD’s *own data*. Still, they have the gall to issue this response: “NYPD police officers enforce the law fairly and evenly, not only where and when they observe infractions but also in response to complaints from 911 and 311 calls.”
This is a civil rights issue. I don’t care if you dont care for the smell of weed. Or buy into the false narrative that it’s a gateway drug. Or oppose drug use on moral/religious grounds. Criminalization of weed is objectively, observably racist & destroying communities of color.
Even when people arrested just get a ticket, they’re still stopped, frisked, brought to a precinct, fingerprinted, caged for 6-12 hours, only to be let go if the officer feels like it & told to return to criminal court some weeks later. The process then becomes the punishment.
I invited the NYT to court to see what happened to those clients who had been arrested & “just” gotten tickets: “They missed work or school, sometimes losing hundreds of dollars in wages, to show up in court — often twice, because paperwork was not ready the first time.”
After all that: ”Their cases were all dismissed so long as they stayed out of trouble for a stretch.” As I pointed out, this was “an indication of the low value the court system places on such cases.” If we don’t care about these cases once in court, why arrest/prosecute at all?
In short, #LEGALIZEIT!

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More from @ScottHech

Oct 6, 2018
WATCH @chrislhayes speak truth to the Kavanaugh hypocrisy. “Every day 1000s are run thru American criminal courts. Disproportionately poor & non-white. The presumption of their guilt is the basic operating principle that keeps the whole system running.”
Just yesterday, like every day as a public defender, I saw this hypocrisy. Privileged white men are literally the least likely group to be presumed guilty.
Just 3 weeks ago, I wrote about this hypocrisy in the @nytopinion: “The cases that have pushed Mr. Trump to criticize American justice only underscore our 2-tiered system. These exceptional cases illustrate how the system could do far better for the rest.”
Read 5 tweets
Sep 15, 2018
Happy Saturday everyone! Preparing for a day in court. 9-5 arraignment shift. Meeting everyone arrested in Brooklyn within the last 24-48 hours. Why? Because mass incarceration doesn’t get a day of rest in the fourth largest city in America. Follow along for observations.
Necessary ammunition:

1. Coffee
2. To-go coffee
3. Water
4. Ibuprofen just in case
5. Phone charger
6. Court ID
7. Pens
8. Biz cards
9. Memobook
10. Legal pad
11. Blank notices (more on that below)
12. Calendar (google printouts bc I lost my calendar this week)
These are my blank “notices of appearance.” They represent the unknown humans who I’ll soon meet & the stories that they’ll soon share. New York AGAINST ___________. They’ll just be a docket number to the court. Just a charge & record to prosecution. My job is to individualize.
Read 28 tweets
Aug 28, 2018
Today I’m working the dreaded “double.” I will be in arraignments from now through 1am. Meeting people arrested within last 24-48 hours, arguing for release, working to advise traumatized families on what’s next, individualizing my clients beyond the accusation & criminal record.
2 for 2. When I met with both of my first clients & the conversation turned to bail, the question was rhetorical: “If bail is set, do you or any family have any money?” Their answers, as usual, is inevitable: “I don’t have no money. Not even a dollar.”
About to appear on case where prosecution is asking for $75,000 bail on a case where I believe-strongly-my client is innocent. A serious allegation but transparently false. Allegations of punch to face & strangulation w/ zero injury. Heart beating fast. Don’t want Rikers for him.
Read 32 tweets
Aug 5, 2018
Don’t let him distract you. *This is what he doesn’t want you to watch. His deportation force violently stealing away a man who has lived in this country for 25 years & then strangling the woman who had the courage to film it.
If ICE is outside your door, don’t panic, and remember: YOU HAVE RIGHTS. Even if you do everything right, they still may enter. View #WeHaveRights series from @ACLU + @BklynDefender & be prepared. WeHaveRights.Us
If ICE forcefully makes their way inside of your home, remember: YOU HAVE RIGHTS. View the #WeHaveRights series that @ACLU + @BklynDefender partnered on & be prepared. 4 scenarios. 7 languages. WeHaveRights.Us
Read 5 tweets
Jul 30, 2018
IDEA: Instead of retweeting, commenting, or otherwise spreading Trump’s anti-immigration screed today, share the #WeHaveRights immigrant empowerment series in this thread. How to safely defend against & document abuses by ICE. More: WeHaveRights.Us
If ICE is outside your door, don’t panic, and remember: YOU HAVE RIGHTS. Even if you do everything right, they still may enter. View the #WeHaveRights series from @ACLU + @BklynDefender & be prepared. WeHaveRights.Us
If ICE forcefully makes their way inside of your home, remember: YOU HAVE RIGHTS. View the #WeHaveRights series that @ACLU + @BklynDefender partnered on & be prepared. 4 scenarios. 7 languages. WeHaveRights.Us
Read 5 tweets
Jul 22, 2018
Raymond Dearie. 1 of 4 FISA judges approving Carter Page surveillance. I spent everyday for a year w/ him as his law clerk. I care deeply about civil liberties & protection against govt intrusion. When Justice Roberts appointed him, I felt immense relief. He’s no rubber stamp.
Yes, he was appointed by Reagan. But he’s no partisan. Yes, he was the former US Attorney (top federal prosecutor) in New York. But as this public defender can tell you, he was uniquely protective of defendant’s rights. Every one got a fair shake. He was *careful. To a fault.
If you look him up on judge rating websites, the consensus is in line w/ reality: An incredibly good man. A fair jurist. Smart & knowledgeable about the law. One “flaw” - takes too long to render decisions. I saw why firsthand. He always wanted to make sure he got the law right.
Read 11 tweets

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