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Local Government

The Dallas City Council Will Revisit Cite And Release Tomorrow

The effort failed about a year ago. But the council is set to again take up ticketing low-level offenders instead of hauling them to jail during Wednesday's meeting.
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Tomorrow, the Dallas City Council again will vote on a program that would ticket those caught in possession of small amounts of marijuana rather than hauling them to jail. The council has once balked at adopting a pilot project, with opposition coming from folks who are adamantly against the idea of ticketing and releasing (Councilman Rickey Callahan) to those amenable to the idea but not to the execution (Councilwoman Sandy Greyson and Mayor Mike Rawlings).

The latter two were concerned about the unequal implementation—Greyson’s district includes portions of the city that lie in both Denton and Collin counties. The sheriff departments of Denton, Collin, Kaufman, and Rockwall counties have respectfully declined to participate in citing and releasing marijuana offenders, which means the northern portions of Greyson’s district wouldn’t be covered by the rule. According to tomorrow’s agenda, the Council will be voting on having City Manager T.C. Broadnax implement cite and release within Dallas County but “continue working with all counties within the city of Dallas to implement a cite and release program to further the city’s goal of reducing the jail population for non-violent offenders.” Currently, if convicted of a Class A misdemeanor (between two and four ounces), you’re facing up to a year in prison and a $4,000 fine.

The initiative, if approved, would begin on October 1. Broadnax will give an update to the council at the six-month mark. He’s also charged with continuing to float the idea of looping in other non-violent offenses that the city has the OK from the state to cite and release: Class B criminal mischief, graffiti, theft, theft of services, contraband in a correctional facility, and driving with an invalid license. Dallas police declined to include those with pot citations.

Suspects would need to have less than four ounces of marijuana on their person to qualify. They’d provide a thumbprint, sign a citation, and show up for court and have the case evaluated by a judge. The initiative passed out of the Public Safety Committee in February. Greyson hasn’t returned requests for comment about whether her mind was changed since the last time it came up before council. That previous vote, taken on March 23 of last year, was 10-5, with Rawlings and Greyson falling on the side of “no.” Councilmembers Mark Clayton, Scott Griggs, Philip Kingston, Lee Kleinman, and Adam Medrano voted for it. Now a year later, they’re hoping they can get additional support to put them over the hill. Kingston, who’s taken the public lead on getting cite and release passed, didn’t return a message requesting comment. In an interview with The Houston Chronicle, he called getting stopped in another county in Dallas “an insane hypothetical” and referred to Houston’s cite and release policy as a galvanizing force.

The state law allowing for citations instead of arrests was signed in 2007. Houston is the most recent addition to the cite and release squad, although it appears there won’t be very many citations there. Those officers will confiscate pot under four ounces if the suspect agrees to enroll in a four-hour education course. They won’t even be ticketed. Dallas, obviously, isn’t going that far. But some of the council thinks it’s time to at least try.

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