Philadelphia's former district attorney says her successor's decision to treat some low-level drug cases as summary offenses is an open invitation to serious crime.
Abraham says Seth Williams' plan to move some marijuana possession cases to a summary court will give a pass to the same criminals who engage in violent acts like shoot-outs. Abraham spoke Monday at a Senate subcommittee hearing on the city's justice system.
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Saying it would free up city courts for more serious crimes, Williams changed the policy last month making the possession of up to a little more than an ounce of marijuana a summary offence instead of a misdemeanor.
This initiative will wipe out about 3,000 misdemeanor possession of marijuana cases per year from the courts so that prosecutors and judges have more time a resources to go after bigger fish, according to the district attorney’s office.
"They are the same criminals who ruin the city's neighborhoods by aggressive, destructive conduct, engage in shoot-outs, commit violent crimes to support their habits, and they intimidate or kill witnesses," Abraham said.
First Deputy District Attorney Joseph McGettigan disagrees with Abraham. He says the marijuana users targeted by the change aren't violent offenders.
"These people arrested for 20 to 30 grams of pot are not first-time offenders for the most part," she said, according to the Inquirer. "They frequently are the repeat offenders who have committed untold numbers of crimes and have been arrested dozens of times."
"We can't declare a war on drugs by going after the kid who's smoking a joint on 55th Street," Williams said in April.