You guessed it: It would reduce the scope of his personal, bureaucratic turf. We can't have that! Bradley writes on the District and County Attorneys user forum:
If SJF drug cases become misdemeanors, the shift in workload from district to county courts at law would be substantial. In selfish terms, a DA with only felony jurisdiction (like myself) would suddenly have an enormous percentage of the caseload moved off the docket. A county attorney with only misdemeanor jurisdiction (such as my colleague in Williamson County) would suddenly find herself with lots of new cases.Perhaps so, but those crimes have mandatory probation on the first offense, anyway, so the impact on jails wouldn't be as substantial as Bradley makes out, certainly not "the biggest unfunded mandate ever perpetrated by the Texas Legislature," as JB hyperbolizes. The Lege could further mitigate additional costs by making the charge a state jail felony on the third offense.
This would be an extraordinary movement of resources for no reason other than someone deciding to reclassify the crime from felony to misdemeanor. Punishment would require county dollars (in county jail) rather than state dollars (in state jail).
There are a lot of public policy benefits to producing fewer new drug felons on possession-only charges: Not only does it save public resources on incarceration, with only a misdemeanor rap, petty offenders won't have the lifelong employment, housing and educational consequences that come with having a felony on your record.
Sentences for state jail felonies are a flat two years, so reduced costs to the state would be substantial - as much as $36,000 in incarceration costs alone for every new felony inmate diverted. That frees up a lot of money, as Judge Michael McSpadden pointed out, to pay for funding new misdemeanor drug courts.
The Lege could also simultaneously enact policies that would reduce jail populations for other drug offenses. E.g., reducing petty marijuana possession to a (ticket only) Class C misdemeanor would reduce arrests, jail overcrowding, indigent defense costs, and actually increase local revenue to help pay for the new Class As because arrests would generate fine revenue.
There are absolutely ways the Texas Legislature could adjust drug penalties that would save the state and counties money overall, if there's the political will. It's fascinating to me that the first argument out of the box from opponents isn't based on some moral commitment that penny ante drug use deserves felony charges, but just that it might slice off a chunk of the District Attorneys' turf.
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