Petition Text

In signing this petition I ask the New Paltz Boards to pass a law stopping the arrests and criminal charges for Marijuana (possession under 25g), Drinking, and Noise violations. Instead, I ask they be given a reasonable civil fine. I make this request because I understand the serious consequences an arrest and criminal charges bring, and I feel that they are inappropriate for minor, non-violent, victimless offenses.

Current Annual Arrests
Marijuana, Alcohol, and Noise: 645
Town of 14,000 people.
Goal Annual Arrests
Marijuana and Alcohol and Noise: Zero

Negative Effects of Arrests

Strip Searching
New Paltz Police repeatedly engages in strip searches of people arrested for Marijuana, Alcohol, or Noise. Their defense is that once a person is in custody, a strip search is necessary to protect the safety of officers. Source: First person reports and confirmation from Chief of Police.
Strip searches are “inherently humiliating and degrading” no matter how they are carried out, and therefore cannot be used routinely. Source: The Canadian Supreme Court, R. v. Golden, [2001] 3 S.C.R. 679, para. 90 (Can.).
Being strip searched leaves people disgusted and annoyed, or worse, degraded, humiliated, and paralyzed. Victims may feel helpless, indignant, and shocked, and may experience, for several years, psychological symptoms of trauma similar to those endured by rape survivors. Source: M. Margaret McKeown, Strip Searches Are Alive and Well in America, 12 HUM. RTS. 37, 42 (1985)
Feelings of humiliation and helplessness may be amplified if an arrestee exhibits physical manifestations of an illness or hormonal change, such as females who are lactating or menstruating, or arrestees who are otherwise perceived as different, including transgendered individuals. Source: Kyle Kirkup, Indocile Bodies: Gender Identity and Strip Searches in Canadian Criminal Law, 24 CANADIAN J.L. & SOC’Y 107, 114 (2009)
Strip searches are described as “visual rape” and victims, particularly women and minorities, may experience a search as a sexual assault. Source: Candadian Court. R. v. Golden, [2001] 3 S.C.R. 679, para. 90 (Can.)
Employment discrimination, such as the type faced by people with an arrest record but no subsequent charge or conviction, has been linked to adverse mental health effects, including anxiety, depression and stress. Adler University study, 2013.
Nearly 80 million Americans have entries in a criminal-records file maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a product of beefed-up policing and tough-on-crime laws. Through online databases, the records are available to employers, landlords, college admissions personnel and loan officers. They thus can impose a burden long after any sentence has been served, and affect the lives of people who were arrested but never convicted. Source: Gary Fields & John R. Emshwiller, Fighting to Forget: Long After Arrests, Records Live On, WALL ST. J., Dec. 26, 2014.
Once arrested, “Even if you are innocent, you will now join the 65 million Americans with an arrest record and experience the ‘civil death’ of discrimination[.]” Source: Utah v. Strieff, 136 S. Ct. 2056 (2016) (Sotomayor, J., dissenting)
The assessment found that as many as 7 in 10 businesses use background checks in their hiring decisions. Many employers, knowingly or unknowingly, do not distinguish between “arrests” and “convictions.” Adler University study, 2013.
Immigration Status
New Paltz has a large international student population diverse citizenry.
When an international student is arrested, they are likely to be denied a renewal of their student visa. Their arrest is entered into the National Crime Information Center Database (NCIC) along with their finger prints, and the information is not removed even if they are acquitted and the arrest is expunged. Hudson Valley Community College, Office of International Studies.
Upon re-entering the US or renewal of any visa, non-citizens will be asked to disclose prior arrests. Admitting to a prior arrest immediately flags an application for higher scrutiny, and can result in a denial or bar from the US. Hudson Valley Community College, Office of International Studies.

Legal Authority to Change Laws

Noise and Alcohol
The noise and alcohol laws are local laws and can be freely amended.
When a municipality wants to decriminalize marijuana where the state has not, other municipalities have passed a law making marijuana a civil offense, and then directs their police to write the civil ticket instead of arrest or impose a criminal charge.
Marijuana Caselaw in NY
In 1984 NYC passed a law which made carrying a knife in some instances a violation, when under state law the same act was a misdemeanor. It was challenged, and the court upheld the law stating "One may cite examples where the two statutes will overlap... However, the fact that the prosecution will often be given the choice between prosecuting as a misdemeanor (Penal Law, § 265.01) or as a violation (the local law) is not a violation of the right to due process." People v. Ortiz, 125 Misc.2d 318 (1984).
In 2014, NYC passed a law allowing people to possess guns in transit to shooting ranges where previously they had only been allowed in their homes, thus expanding rights locally that were curbed on a State level. The Appellate Court upheld the law, saying (1) the petitioner (and probably no one) has standing to challenge a law which expands rights, (2) expanding the instances where a gun is a law is not supplanting a law, it's supplementing it. De Illy v. Kelly, 6 A.D.3d 217 (2004).
These two cases are in line with a wealth of caselaw that handles the other side of the coin. Many municipalities have passed laws with tougher penalties than state penalties for penal violations. These cases all rely on People v. Lewis which is a Court of Appeals case (highest court in NY), which states that a difference in penalty between state and local law does not invalidate the local law for inconsistency. People v. Lewis, 296 N.Y. 42.
The caselaw beneath Lewis has laid out that a local law cannot 'allow' something state law forbids, or forbid something that state law allows. This is important because it dictates you cannot simply pass a law stating there is no penalty for marijuana, you must penalize it, but the caselaw repeatedly states that a difference in penalty IS allowed. It notably, does not single out an "increase" in penalty, but rather a "difference".