Dallas Could Have Stopped Jailing People For Marijuana Possession in 2007, But It Hasn't

Categories: Weed

JointSmokerFlickr.jpg
ashton
Some day, in the very far distant future, Texas may take a cue from Colorado and legalize marijuana. For now, it's taking some very hesitant first steps toward decriminalization, such as a proposal last legislative session reduce possession of an ounce or less of weed from a class B to a class C misdemeanor -- basically a traffic ticket.

But police and prosecutors already have an option for keeping low-level marijuana offenders out of jail. In 2007, the Texas Legislature passed a law allowing police to implement a "cite and release" policy for marijuana possession and a handful of other class A and B misdemeanors like graffiti and driving without a license.

See also: Texas Governor Rick Perry Is Still a Long Way From Legalizing Pot

Before, those suspects would automatically be hauled off to the county jail. Under the new law, officers could write them a ticket and order them to appear before a judge.

Joe Ptak of Texans Smart on Crime says the benefits are obvious. Arresting fewer low-level drug offenders means more jail space and lower costs. In Hays County (San Marcos), where he lives, Ptak says the policy kept officials from having to build a bigger jail.

Just as important, Ptak says, is that it "keeps police on the street looking for real criminals." Assuming a one-hour booking process and factoring in travel time to and from the jail, arresting a pot smoker can occupy a police officer for two or three hours.

And yet only a handful of counties -- Travis, Midland, Bastrop, Caldwell, Brewster, Hays, and maybe a couple of others -- got around to adopting cite and release. Harris, Dallas, and Tarrant counties (i.e. the state's three largest) did not.

Ptak cites a couple of main reasons the policy wasn't more widely adopted. The law didn't do a good job of establishing how police departments, judges and prosecutors, all of whom have to be on board for cite and release to work, might coordinate their efforts. Throw in a healthy dose of politics -- he blames the absence of Harris County on a feud between the district attorney and sheriff -- and it turns into what Ptak describes as a "three-legged stool" of bureaucracy.

It's not clear why Dallas hasn't adopted cite-and-release (Dallas PD spokesman Max Geron is checking for us, as is Dallas County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Carmen Castro), just that it hasn't.

With 6,284 misdemeanor pot possession cases filed in Dallas County in 2013 -- an average of 17 arrests per day -- it seems like a no-brainer.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

My Voice Nation Help
35 comments
Hodor
Hodor

It is good to see my taxes are paying for non-violent offenders while kids in school are refused meals because their account is out of funds.

kentwood
kentwood

Each of those arrests generates fees for bail bonds (not much if it's a cash bond), and jobs for  lawyers,  judges,  court reporters,  prosecutors,  probation officers,  you get the idea ...

average possession of pot,   as the Baylor football player caught with a whopping 6 grams is learning,     there being 28 to the ounce,   will cost between $2500 and $5000.

And,   busting 20 a day adds up ...  you do the math,  X 365.  It justifies more cops on the shifts,   more clerks to shuffle paper ...

are you nuts,   people and public money=power.   Why would any decent bureaucrat give up this windfall?

Sometimes the system gets real lucky,   there's enough for a felony charge,  the costs skyrocket.

If we ever stopped enforcing dope laws,  you'd have the intersection of Greenville/Lovers over-run by men in three-piece suits holding big cardboard signs,  WILL SUE FOR FOOD!!!


A former occasional member of the Legal-Easy Money Complex!

ChangingF8
ChangingF8

So it is against the law but they are not real criminals?

GAA214
GAA214

This is progress. 


Sisyphean
Sisyphean

Surely we cannot take away the joy of gathering low-hanging fruit from our vaunted public safety denizens!

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

What do you bet those pot arrests happen at the end of the officers shift, when they can then bill 2-3 hour of overtime booking a dude for a joint

tdkisok
tdkisok

Cite and release doesn't make money for the private prisons, The  industry pays a lot to politicians for that little pot of gold.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Again - Texas spends more to prosecute a marijuana possession case than it does for a year of primary school.  "Texas spends an average of $10,000 per arrest for possession of cannabis, prioritizing that expense and instead only spending $8,492 to educate one child for one year in 2012"


Kinky Friedman is the only one running for office openly advocating reform

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

Sure, 17 pot arrests a day may seem excessive, but keep in mind these people could eat you out of house and home if allowed to go free.

Once on a lunch break driving down I-35 with a co worker, traffic was stopped for VP Al Gore's motorcade. Since we were both Republicans, I drove across the grass to get to the service road, only to be met by the largest policeman in the world. He motioned for us to stop, and as he approached my truck, my passenger informed me he was carrying his concealed weapon. I said, "that's ok, I have an ounce of weed in the door pocket".

It seemed funny at the time.

WylieH
WylieH

This seems like a no-brainer, given DPD's chronic staff shortages and underfunding.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Citing rather than arresting makes it a lot harder to go pick up a few potheads when you need the arrest to make you Points That Are Not A Quota Since Quotas Are Illegal Which Is Why We Call It Points.

Monkey
Monkey

@ChangingF8  Correct!!

Jailing someone for flowers in their pocket is called cruel and unusual punishment.

Like a simple traffic violation, you broke the law, but you are not a real criminal.

barkbarkk
barkbarkk

@ScottsMerkin actually, after its happened to me in sugar land county they would sit there and talk shit and play around and joke with each other basically doing nothing like theyve accomplished something important

kentwood
kentwood

@Sotiredofitall I posted by comment before I read yours.   It's job creation,  folks,  that's all.

amuse2
amuse2

@Sotiredofitall The cost related to the arrests are 'sunk' - i.e. if you don't arrest someone for pot you don't save $10,000. The way that stat is calculated it is based on all costs in the system per arrest in aggregate.


holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@TheRuddSki  

Decriminalization ain't shit.

The state can't tax that which is not legal.

GuessWho-I-Sue
GuessWho-I-Sue

@TheRuddSki Marijuana is a gateway for more than just drug abuse,  it is clearly the "open" gateway that leads to illegal immigration. 

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@WylieH

Yes, it's hard on public funding.  But it's a big money-maker for private enterprises that are owned by Christian conservative politicians.

Take, for example, Judge Creuzot's faith-based rehabs a few years ago.  He and several other judges made a fortune off of "non-profit" rehabs for substance abusers who were arrested for the most menial offenses.

The state paid them about $100/day per "client".  At any given time, they had upwards of 300 "clients" at each of about a half-dozen facilities - netting them about $100k/day.

They called it a "diversion" program to get folks to stop using drugs, but it had the exact opposite effect.  Over 90% re-offended, often while still "clients" at the facility.  It also became a great way for dealers and users to connect with each other in a way they never could have without the state's help.


DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Monkey @ChangingF8  ... except the CONVICTIONS that remain on their permanent record are for REAL DRUG CRIMES, with all the social and economic disqualifications they bring ... for life.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

@amuse2  Shouldn't cost include "all costs in the system per arrest"? 

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum topcommenter

@amuse2 @Sotiredofitall  Sure, but if the system that dictates those costs is overhauled and reductions are made across the board due to a lighter caseload, savings will be realized. Maybe not $10K, but something measurable.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@holmantx

Good point. In a system designed by and for the billable hours class, decriminalization is like taking food from children's mouths, or repressing the Mercedes.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@DonnSterling

it is clearly the "open" gateway that leads to illegal immigration.

You want open gateways, brudda, you got 'em.

Among the 36,000 immigrants whom U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released from custody last year there were 116 with convictions for homicide, 43 for negligent manslaughter, 14 for voluntary manslaughter and one with a conviction classified by ICE as “homicide-willful kill-public official-gun.”

Tierra de la libertad!

amuse2
amuse2

@CogitoErgoSum @amuse2@SotiredofitallHave you ever worked in government? The way bureaucracy works is that it expands to fill its budget and its subsequent growth each year. I think it is silly to arrest people for smoking pot myself, but my point is you aren't going to see any monetary savings - the police/jails will simply have more time to enforce other crimes - hopefully things like property crimes that get ignored now...

GuessWho-I-Sue
GuessWho-I-Sue

@TheRuddSki Maybe I misrepresented myself.  I certainly do not approve of immigration of any sort.  I was simply saying that it is a "gateway" in two different ways.  One that leads to harder drugs like crystal meth and one that opens the gate to illegal immigrants from Mexico.  A twist on the word gateway.  So I would add to your list the one that pisses me off the most which is having to wait in an emergency room for every illegal in town to get treatment.   And in addition having to find someone in a store in Dallas that can speak English.  AND from a personal point, having my family car plowed by a drunk driving illegal alien who had been arrested twice in the previous month.  


Now that is just the start.  And once I start on this subject it is hard to stop me as one member of my family still suffers as a result of this drunken illegal alien who was never required to pay a penny to our situation.  His biggest punishment was a free ticket back home.  So once I start, it is hard for me to stop on this subject.   Except to say, I am a sister not a brudda.  Donnie is a nickname for Dawn. 



Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...