Buncombe County’s fifth Amnesty Day outpaced all combined previous efforts. Upward of a conservatively estimated 600 people showed up, and more than 550 had their cases modified via dismissal, court date reset, and other alternatives. District Attorney Todd Williams says the spirit of Amnesty Day gets right to the heart of his office’s mission. “Our focus is to do justice, and that means not always prosecuting to obtain a conviction because justice requires understanding each case and each person’s particular circumstances. That’s what so stimulating about this job,” notes Williams. The goal of the Jan. 25 Amnesty Day was to void old warrants and orders for arrest by dismissing traffic violations and other nonviolent misdemeanors.
Assistant DA Katie Kurdys echoes the sentiment that the Buncombe County DA’s Office isn’t always looking to be punitive, but has a directive to strengthen the community by helping people. “I recognize people live their lives and I don’t always know what’s going on. I look at cases holistically and ask myself what justice looks like,” explains Kurdys. She recounts the story of a single mother whose license was revoked due to a seatbelt infraction which snowballed into an arrest warrant, suspended license, and canceled insurance. “I was able to get the judge to dismiss all the charges. I told her she could go get her license and she just started crying,” says Kurdys. “There were a lot of people who said they’d hug me if they could… I got a ton of high fives.”
Based on the success of January’s Amnesty Day, Williams says they have their eyes on future dates to help even more people get charges dismissed, court dates rescheduled, and move on with their lives. “Thinking about social justice and racial equity, we might look toward Martin Luther King Jr. Day next year,” says Williams.
Buncombe County and the DA’s Office would like to thank everyone who helped spread the word about Amnesty Day and wishes everyone who took advantage of the event the best of luck. For more information about everyday diversion programs and resources, please contact the Justice Resource Center at (828) 250-6401 or visit the website here. For more information about the DA’s Office click here.