Bexar County residents caught in possession of marijuana or accused of certain misdemeanors can receive a ticket and be let go under the county’s new Criminal Intervention Through Education program. The process is commonly referred to as cite and release.
The policy takes effect immediately. People with less than 4 oz of marijuana, stealing property or services worth less than $750, driving without a license, or criminal mischief — like property damage — up to $750 can be given a citation and a court date, and then let go.
In order to qualify, the person must have an ID at the time of the offense, live in Bexar County, be over age 17, and have no pending charges or warrants.
To avoid any charges, the accused will have to complete certain requirements. Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood said those receiving a ticket may have to pay a $250 program fee, take an education class associated with their offense, and perform community service or other requirements.
“The citizen accused will have the benefit of avoiding a traditional conviction and probation costs, including court costs and fees,” he said.
It will be up to the officer at the scene to determine what action will be taken.
“I think a lot of them are going to use it,” LaHood said. “I mean, unless there’s something coupling it — some other behavior; disrespect; intoxication; some type of felony.
Police departments in Bexar County will have to decide if they will participate. LaHood said Wednesday the only police department that declined using cite and release is in Olmos Park.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said the program would allow for officers and deputies to spend less time on certain non-violent crimes if an individual is let go instead of being arrested.
“From my standpoint, I’m happy to be able to say that our deputies will be able to save some time, get themselves back into service, make sure the tax payers get getting their money out of it, and we’re obviously being able to give folks a second chance and make better use of our resources,” he said.
The program requires supervision and a timeline to complete the obligations. However, those that don’t finish the program could face charges.
In 2007, the Texas Legislature passed HB 2391, making cite and release possible in Texas counties by allowing the discretion-based policies to be enacted.
Dallas and Houston both started similar policies in 2017. Austin has had one in place since 2009.
The cite and release program was originally slated to start at the end of last year but ran into some delays.
Joey Palacios can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules