NEW YORK — In a single morning, city courts Wednesday threw out over 640,000 warrants for people who didn’t show up in court or pay fines after being ticketed for minor offenses years ago.

The move – requested by prosecutors – marks a sweeping step in city officials’ efforts to promote what they see as a more fair and workable approach to low-level offenses. But one of the city’s five district attorneys said the dismissals sent a problematic signal about law-breaking.

Applause broke out among politicians, clergy members and others gathered in a Brooklyn courtroom after 143,532 warrants there were cleared in no longer than it took Judge Frederick Arriaga to say: “The court will grant the motion to dismiss each case for the furtherance of justice.”

“Someone who owes a $25 fine should not be arrested and brought down to central booking and spend 20 or 24 hours in a cell next to a hardened criminal,” acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said after going to court himself to make the request and highlight the occasion.

But Staten Island DA Michael McMahon steered clear.

“Blanket amnesty for these offenses is unfair to those citizens who responsibly appear in court and sends the wrong message about the importance of respecting our community and our laws,” he said in a prepared statement.

The warrants date back a decade or longer and stem from summonses for nonviolent, small-scale offenses such as littering, open-container drinking, being in a park after hours or walking an unleashed dog. Many people didn’t realize a warrant had been issued, officials said.

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