Monday, February 18, 2013

Shouldn't We Be Able To Ticket Rather Than Arrest For Minor Offenses?

Not sure how I missed this, but last week there was a piece at the Fort Worth Star Telegram that looked at  bills proposed by Texas legislators lowering the punishment severity of several common, but minor offenses here in Texas. One bill looks at lowering the penalty for possession of user quantities of marijuana from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C. Another does the same for certain prostitution related offenses.

In Texas a Class C misdemeanor is the lowest offense category and in punishable only by a fine and not by a jail term. For comparison, a Class B misdemeanor can result in incarceration in jail for a period of up to 180 days along with a fine.

One benefit of this is that officers will be able to issue tickets for these offenses rather than making a custodial arrest. You can imagine that this will reduce the time and expense for police departments in making an arrest. Let's say you run across a hippie in a tie-dyed T-shirt smoking a joint on a park bench. The officer can write him a ticket and send him on his way in 10 minutes rather than being out of service for an hour or more while you arrest him, drive him across town and then book him into jail.

Another cost saving in making this change is enumerated in the article:

Removing jail time from the punishment spectrum relieves the state from providing legal aid to defendants who can't hire an attorney on their own.
Via Forth Worth Star Telegram 
I'm glad to see that the financial realities of our overly tough on crime approach are finally sinking in at the lege. I also wish that we'd open a lot more minor offenses up to being handled by citations. If the offenses are minor and non-violent why shouldn't police have the option to deal with it via citations rather than a custodial arrest?

A hat tip to Scott Henson over at Grits For Breakfast for a link to the story.

Rea
d more heI re: http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/02/11/4614956/changes-urged-in-prison-penalty.html#storylink=cpy

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