Efforts to decriminalize recreational marijuana use have failed to gain much traction in Texas at the state level, but some localities are taking steps of their own to reduce the burden on the courts and allow law enforcement to concentrate on more serious crimes. Starting on Dec. 1, police in Dallas will be implementing a cite and release policy that changes the way that individuals found to be in possession of less than four ounces of the drug are treated. Instead of being arrested and taken to jail, they will be issued a citation and released pending a court date.
The Dallas cite and release policy does not change the penalties for marijuana possession, and individuals cited under the program will still face up to 180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine. However, they will no longer have to deal with the consequences of being arrested such as missing work, having their vehicles impounded and spending time in a holding cell.
The policy was originally approved in April and was scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 1, but its implementation was delayed after objections were raised by some lawmakers. One senior official felt that the policy should be expanded to cover the entire county rather than just the city of Dallas, and a Republican objected to some of the language used. However, these minor objections were addressed, and the Dallas County Commissioners Court voted to adopt the measure on Oct. 17.
Individuals arrested on minor drug charges sometimes feel that they will be treated harshly by the courts, but prosecutors work under great pressure and may view petty crimes as little more than a distraction. However, negotiating a favorable plea agreement can be more difficult when suspects have acted truculently or show no signs of remorse. Criminal defense attorneys may advise their clients to cooperate with law enforcement and remain courteous even if they feel that they are being treated unfairly, as it is prosecutors and not police who ultimately decide how criminal matters are resolved.
Source: The Dallas Observer, “Cite-and-Release for Pot Possession Will (Finally) Start in Dallas in December”, Stephen Young, Oct. 17, 2017