Thursday, January 03, 2008

Note to MSM: Please stop repeating error on jail overcrowding law

Here's a request to MSM reporters and editors out there reading Grits: Can we please stop repeating that no jurisdiction but Austin has implemented Rep. Jerry Madden's HB 2391 allowing citations for low-level, non-violent misdemeanors?

Yes, I know, Tiara Ellis reported in the Dallas News on New Years' Eve that the new law "is being used only in Travis County," and the AP included the line in the story y'all received over the wires.

But that's not true, okay? And promoting that idea discourages wider application of new officer discretion. Let's please nip this spreading meme in the bud that nobody but liberal Austin has chosen to use the new authority!

Offhand, I know Colorado County set up a system for officers to use new discretion, as did Jefferson County. According to media reports, the Hays, Navarro, and Palo Pinto Sheriffs also are letting deputies decide when to arrest.

Recently a prosecutor from Lubbock posted on the DA's User forum asking what other jurisdictions were doing with citations authorized under HB 2391. DA Ken Sparks from Colorado County replied that:

I gave each law enforcement agency a list of county court dates and told them to write a court date on the ticket that is approximately 60 days off. That gives us time to get the offense report, review it and file the charge if warranted. We do not issue a warrant unless the defendant fails to appear on the court date.
I emailed Sparks to ask how often his county used the new provision and if they'd run into any logistical problems using it. He replied:
I anticipated it being used a lot more, but the reduction of the offense of driving while license invalid to a Class C misdemeanor, effective September 1, 2007, has resulted in less opportunities to employ this method. In 2006 29% of the cases on my county court docket were DWLI cases. In 2008 it will be less that 5%!

It is being used by two of the police agencies in my county because they are located about 15 miles from the county jail and it is a time-saver.

It is being used primarily for possession of marihuana cases. Since it is a small county, (pop. 20,000) the number of times it has been used is small.
So what this tells you is that, despite claims by Dallas County (whose jail is utterly stuffed) that "more research is necessary," big (Travis), medium-sized (Jefferson), and small counties (like Colorado) have all figured out how to make the new law work.

From Sparks' description, it wouldn't surprise me if other rural counties are using the new authority, particularly where small towns may be some distance away from the nearest county lockup. (For juveniles, not every county has a detention center and in some cases out in West Texas police must drive more than 100 miles to the nearest pretrial youth lockup.)

Rather than dismiss the statute as just something for liberal Austin (Bexar officials more than Travis backed the proposal at the Lege, actually - their former jail administrator Dennis McKnight first came up with the idea), a better approach would be for reporters to localize the story, particularly in counties with jail overcrowding problems, by asking whether candidates for judge, county commissioner, Sheriff, and District Attorney support keeping more officers on the street by using this new law.

The truth is that whether to apply this new statute is entirely a function of decisions by elected officials. Even if current officials (e.g., Chuck Rosenthal in Houston) don't trust officers to make those decisions, their political successors might.



Anonymous said...

January 2, 2008

Marijuana citations not being issued

ABILENE -- Law officers in the Big Country are not using a new statute that allows them to issue citations for marijuana violations instead of taking people to jail. We asked them why. Watch our story…
If you use pot here, you'll go to jail
By Doug Myers
Wednesday, January 2, 2008

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Law enforcement agencies in Taylor County have no plans to utilize a state law that allows police to write tickets -- rather than make arrests -- for misdemeanor marijuana possession.

District Attorney James Eidson said Wednesday he has met with representatives of the Taylor County Sheriff's Office and the Abilene Police Department and determined that using the new law, which went into effect Sept. 1, wasn't the best way to go.

While passing the law, Texas lawmakers touted it as a way to relieve jail overcrowding.

"I just don't think the benefits outweigh the disadvantages," Eidson said. "By and large, it sends the wrong message."

The new law allows officers to arrest violators, as has been going on, or to write citations for possession of less than four ounces of marijuana.

Eidson said the law effectively decriminalizes the use of controlled substances. It also stops officers from having the ability to search for evidence of other crimes if only a citation is written, he said.

Only Travis County is currently taking advantage of the new law, and Eidson said plans are to wait to see "how it shakes out in other places."

"We'll wait until we can get a better picture," Eidson said.
© 2007 Abilene Reporter-News
Posted by uniacornmom90 on January 3, 2008 at 6:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Leave it to eidson to think he is law unto himself.take pothead to jail, but lets someone out of DWI's, if they give one of the victim(that was hit by drunk driver) money.

Posted by lillian5 on January 3, 2008 at 6:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Where's the comments made yesterday? Guess the DA's office controls this paper also!
A recap - Taylor county as well as many other counties and cities in Texas are fleecing citizens of big $$$ and unremovable criminal charges for a simple personal possession of a small amount of pot. One joint of pot will cost a person up to $5000 after they tack on license fees and surcharges ($3000 - huh, I don't remember voting for that!)court costs, probation fees, fines, pee tests, drug counseling, and assorted other $$ and requirements. Another GOOD OLD BOY CON GAME!

Posted by squid on January 3, 2008 at 7:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

boo hoo, dopers! Pay up.

Posted by Tumbleweed on January 3, 2008 at 8:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Here's one to chew on. First take all the laws off the books that deal with DUI/DWI/PI/DRUGS. Make the appropriate public announcement that effective such and such date this is the new law.
When you are caught with a single serving of illegal drugs or caught driving with any alcohol or drugs in you system you go to jail that night and get out of jail 365 days later. No deferred adjudication, probation, community service, fines, or suspensions. If you are caught with more than a serving of illegal drugs or hurt someone while driving with any alcohol or drugs in your system you go to jail that night for 20 years. Once again, No deferred adjudication, probation, community service, fines, parole or suspensions!

Now consider this new punishment for your indiscretion and answer this. Would you drink and drive, use drugs, would you allow anyone you loved to drink and drive or use drugs?

The first public figure that goes away for a year or more would be the lead story on the evening news. Someone out there would say where would keep all the people in jail at. Well is someone is stupid enough to jeopardize their freedom then we as citizen owe them a nice Maricopa county type jail experience.

Posted by robertwp on January 3, 2008 at 9:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"I just don't think the benefits outweigh the disadvantages," Eidson said. "By and large, it sends the wrong message."

Does this guy have big brass ones or what?

Eidson didn't really say "sends the wrong message" did he?

What a joke.

Posted by squid on January 3, 2008 at 10:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Eidson didn't really say "sends the wrong message" did he?

I hope he did, this isnt Oregon or California.

Posted by rsjz4 on January 3, 2008 at 10:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It is time to get this guy out of office.

Posted by rodcynthia on January 3, 2008 at 12:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I myself dont smoke pot,,, but I can tell you one thing if your going to carry it,, make sure it is three ounces so you only get a ticket...hahahaahah

Posted by megjerden on January 3, 2008 at 12:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I got some Maui Wowie mixed with a little labradore I'd like shove up Eidson's a.. and fire that mutha up.

Posted by wild_bill on January 3, 2008 at 3:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's easy to pick out the dopeheads, huh squid? I love these folks who think the law shouldn't apply to them and that by getting rid of a DA who enforces the letter of the law, they can somehow change the law. It's simple folks, either change the law or obey the law. No sense in blaming the folks who enforce the law.

Posted by robertwp on January 3, 2008 at 3:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Wild Bill,
Do a little research and you might find out that Eidson thinks the law should apply to some and not to others.

Posted by tiredofthespin on January 3, 2008 at 3:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm a pretty liberal guy who smoked my fair share of pot back in college. I can say from experience that it is a mind altering substance, and can greatly impair motor skills and judgement, even in small quantities.
I do not think dicriminalizing marijuana is the right thing to do. You can certainly send the wrong message by treating possesion and consumption as something no more serious than a traffic ticket. We should send a message about it's harmful effects by continuing to enforce it as a crime, with consequences that are not the end of the world, but certainly severe enough to help that person make wiser decisions. I hate to think of where I might be right now if I had not made the decision to quit, or even worse, made the decision to try stronger more lethal drugs.
I'm not some old conservative coot either, but I think my experiences and relative youth make me an intelligent voice of reason.

Posted by abbilene on January 3, 2008 at 4:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's just pot. I don't think people are going to go all Reefer Madness if they get a ticket instead of jailtime. People who smoke are smoking regardless.

Posted by Mellonello on January 3, 2008 at 4:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Beleive it or NOT, even with all the restrictions your talking about, our jails are FULL of people who used dope or drank alcohol.
An alcoholic or a dopehead, doesnt think rationally when they need that drink or that fix. Trust me, it never enters thier head!!
Until they get Caught!!! We had an officer killed by a drunk driver in 2007 and another officer hurt in accident by a drunk driver.
And all those for legalizing pot,,there are many people killed by drivers who are high to. I say enforce the law!

Anonymous said...

The new law says arrest violators or write a ticket.Sounds simple to me.But I'm not a dope head so what do I know.

Anonymous said...

I think Elections are the answer!
If your Judge doesn't up-hold the laws you voted for them to, fire that person on the next election before they move up to posts that you DON'T elect. THINK ABOUT THE LAWS YOU WANT IN YOUR SOCIETY. Fire the lawmakers that MISREPRESENT your needs and dreams of the perfect and more perfect union.

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