Marijuana ticket law only catching on near Austin
Law designed to free jail space not used beyond Austin as prosecutors question propriety
10:50 PM CST on Sunday, December 30, 2007
By TIARA M. ELLIS / The Dallas Morning News
Texas lawmakers thought they could help ease jail overcrowding when they passed legislation allowing police to write tickets for misdemeanor marijuana possession and a few other nonviolent crimes, instead of hauling suspects to the clink.
But the new law, which went into effect Sept. 1, is being used only in Travis County. Prosecutors in Dallas, Tarrant and Collin counties never set up a system to process the misdemeanor citations and, they say, they have no plans to do so.
"THE NEW LAW
The law: It gives police officers the discretion to arrest a suspect – as they have been doing – or write citations for a series of class A and B misdemeanors for possession of less than 4 ounces of marijuana.
Other applications: Other misdemeanors for which officers can now write tickets include driving with an invalid license, criminal mischief, creating graffiti and theft, as long as the damage costs for each incident is less than $500.
Possible punishment: A class A misdemeanor can result in up to one year in jail and fines of up to $4,000. A class B misdemeanor can result in up to 180 days in jail and up to $2,000 in fines.
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