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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Possession of marijuana might not automatically land someone in jail anymore in Dallas.
City council members voted 10-to-5 to approve a “cite and release” program.
If a person is caught with less than 4 oz of weed, they face a misdemeanor citation and are given a date to show up in court.
“I still think it’s ridiculous at that point. You shouldn’t be sending people to jail for that. That seems absurd,” said Josh Carter, who 15 years ago was arrested for possession of marijuana.
While his arrest has since been expunged, the moment lives with him to this day. Carter said he was driving and pulled over for an illegal lane change. When the officer searched his car, he found two joints.
“For some reason, he thought I was suspicious so he searched my car. And me being dumb and young, I let him do that,” said Carter. “At that point I was getting handcuffed and taken away in a car.”
Carter supports the new cite and release program.
Others, like former officer Pete Schulte, feel the program does not go far enough.
“In a perfect world, if people were cited, they were released and they showed up to court and took care of their case, perfect,” said Schulte, who’s now a defense lawyer. “Chances of that happening maybe 10 percent of the time are slim to none.”
Schulte thinks it could put more stress on the criminal justice system. He said if someone does not show up for their date in court, a warrant will be issued and served for their arrest. Schulte said it just taxes law enforcement weeks or months later.
“I think it’s just pushing the ball down the court,” said Schulte. “It’s not going to help anything.”
The man behind the initiative, council member Philip Kingston, strongly disagrees.
“That’s boneheaded,” said Kingston. “Our cops are smart.”
Kingston believes cite and release will help free up officers to focus on more serious crimes.
“I think what we’ve done at this point is made this crime such a hassle for police to mess with, that they’ll simply quit,” said Kingston.
People like Carter say while it is too late for him, he is hoping it will help others.
“It’s a start,” said Carter. “I think with a citation you’re going to have less of the looking for the arrest from it at that point.”
Dallas Police released a statement confirming it will participate with cite and release as it is implemented on October 1st of 2017. Officers are reminding folks cite and release will not be eligible in drug free areas like school zones.