Four years ago, several law enforcement agencies throughout Travis County, including the Austin Police Department, decided to stop arresting offenders for relatively minor crimes such as shoplifting and low-quantity drug possession. Instead, those suspects get a ticket with a date to show up in court.
Such “cite and release” programs — made possible by the Legislature’s 2007 change to state misdemeanor laws — were meant to ease crowding at county jails and free officers from the hours it can take to transport and book a suspect, allowing them to focus on more serious crime.
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- Officers can issue citations instead of arresting suspects for several specific Class A and Class B misdemeanors:
- Possession of marijuana less than 2 ounces (Class B)
- Possession of marijuana less than 4 ounces (Class A)
- Criminal mischief in which damage is $50 but less than $500 (Class B)
- Graffiti in which value is less than $500 (Class B)
- Theft in which value of stolen property is $50 or more but less than $500 (Class B)
- Theft of service in which value of stolen property is $20 or more but less than $500 (Class B)
- Driving while license invalid (Class B)
Investigative reporter Tony Plohetski has covered law enforcement and criminal justice issues for nearly a dozen years. Recently, he has examined how judges grant personal bonds to some Travis County criminal defendants with no input from prosecutors and how two board members for the Austin police pension system worked for companies that did business with the system.