A drug charges attorney in Austin, or anywhere in state of Texas will probably be taking on a different role if all goes well with decriminalization bills that continue to make their way through the State legislature. Texas has been dabbling with the idea of decriminalization now for the last few legislative sessions. For instance, this year’s legislative House Bill 81 was voted out of the Criminal Jurisprudence committee a 4-2 vote which included two Republicans.
The proposed bill, which ultimately did not make the floor for a vote, decriminalized possession of marijuana of one ounce or less. Instead of it being a criminal felony, people caught by police with possession of this amount would receive a ticket. This bill and many others were thwarted by the Conservative Caucus in the House at the legislative sessions end
In many jurisdictions, this is already the case. For instance, Houston’s Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced the new marijuana policy in March of 2017. She says it will save Harris County millions of dollars and free up resources to focus on prosecuting violent crimes.
The new Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program in Harris County diverts all misdemeanor marijuana cases — involving up to four ounces — out of the criminal justice system, instead redirecting low-level drug offenders into a decision-making class. Dallas County has adopted a substantially similar program. Additionally, municipalities all across the State have implemented cite and release programs allowing officer discretion in either arresting or citing an accused. If an individual is citing, much like a traffic ticket, they must still show up to court to answer for the charged conduct.
This offense is currently treated as a Class B misdemeanor which can result in up to six months of jail time. Most Texas Counties still arrest offenders, who must post bond, hire an attorney and litigate their case, in many instances resulting in a conviction on their criminal record. While a good attorney may know how to mitigate these consequences, the fact that we are still over-criminalizing this conduct is homage to Texas’ draconian controlled substances policies.
“It is a fairly new concept in Texas not to criminalize conduct,” said House Bill 81’s sponsor Moody, (D) from El Paso. “Part of the problem has been just getting people comfortable with the idea of treating this differently than we have in the past.”
“The state’s current policy of arresting and jailing people for simple marijuana possession is completely unwarranted,” said Heather Fazio, a spokesperson for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. “Law enforcement officials’ time and limited resources would be better spent addressing serious crimes… No one should be saddled with a lifelong criminal record simply for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol.”
In the meantime, if you find yourself with a marijuana possession charge and in need of a drug charges attorney in Austin give us a call.