Local law makers still against cite-and-release policy

Local law makers still against cite-and-release policy

Local law makers still against cite-and-release policy
April 07
03:00 2016

Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

@kbwats

A state law that went into effect in 2007 may still change the way UNT students deal with low-level drug possession charges, but some Denton County authorities have refused to side with the greater population of Texas.

According to a 2015 University of Texas and Texas Tribune poll, 70 percent of Texans support reducing punishment for possessing marijuana. About 10 percent of Texans don’t support that.

Texas House Bill 2391, commonly referred to as the cite-and-release law, went into effect in 2007. Denton is one of many Texas counties that has not adopted the policy. It is widely held that a policy like this could save residents time and tax dollars while allowing police officers more time to deal with violent crimes rather than arresting marijuana smokers.

Texas lawmakers left it to counties to decide if and how to implement the change. Implementation of cite-and-release would allow officers to give tickets instead of arresting for possession of marijuana under 4 ounces.

According to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study, one in every 17 college students smoke marijuana at least 20 times per month. The study also found the percentage of students using marijuana one or more times per month rose from 17 percent in 2006 to 21 percent in 2014.

7_CiteReleaseGraphic

Erica Wieting | Staff Graphic Artist

According to public arrest records, UNT police made more than 275 arrests for possession of marijuana under 4 ounces between 2013 and 2015. The Denton Police Department arrested 248 people for marijuana-related offenses in 2013, 269 people in 2014 and 221 people from January to Nov. 19, 2015.

According to current Denton County Sheriff William Travis, who lost his re-election campaign to Tracy Murphree, it costs about $60 to cover all costs associated with housing inmates in Denton County Jail. That would mean it cost the City of Denton about $16,500 to jail the 275 marijuana possession arrests made by UNT police between 2013 and 2015.  For the 738 people arrested by the Denton Police Department, it cost them approximately $44,280.

Travis has made it clear he’s opposed to the legalization of marijuana and cite-and-release.

“We take a hard line against possession of all drugs, [and] we are against decriminalization of marijuana and will continue to arrest for Class B possession,” Travis said. “Cases must be filed with the District’s Attorney Office. To issue tickets for Class B misdemeanors, we would have to create a process to file Class B cases with the DA, the County Clerk and the County Courts. A change such as this would be too costly for Denton County taxpayers.”

Denton NORML executive director Caroline Turner thinks a cite-and-release policy could really benefit Denton. She said the UNT community is open to cite-and-release.

Turner took issue with students being kept out of class because of an arrest and how that might affect their education. She hopes cite-and-release will help people keep their jobs and motivate them to give back to their community more enthusiastically.

Murphree, who beat Travis on Super Tuesday, promised to “bring integrity back to the department” during an interview with the Denton Record-Chronicle early in the race. In the same article, he said he plans to focus on drug enforcement officers getting dealers in jail instead of allowing civil forfeitures, where law enforcement officers confiscate the drugs without charging the person with a crime.

“I think Denton will most definitely be in line to implement cite-and-release,” Turner said. “But, we have a few obstacles still in place. The thing about cite-and-release is that there isn’t one single way to go about implementing it, so we have a lot of options and a lot of elected officials who are in support of this change.”

Featured Image: Denton County sheriff William Travis answers a question during a debate put on by the Denton Republican Women’s Club. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

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