Early in 2017, the Dallas City Council approved a program that is known by the name of Marijuana Cite-and-Release. It was officially approved in April. Though it lessens the legal consequences of being caught with marijuana, it is not considered to be decriminalization.
The policy was put into effect on Friday, December 1st. It states that some individuals are able to walk away from being caught with marijuana, with only a ticket. It is still illegal in both Dallas and Texas as a whole. This means that people cannot just purchase marijuana and smoke it as they please.
The way that this works is that individuals who live in the Dallas County part of the city who is stopped within the area with four ounces or less of the drug will only be given a citation. They will not be arrested, and may not have to serve any jail time at all. This only applies to a person who has not had any other convictions, does not hold any outstanding warrants, is at least 17 years of age, and has either a driver’s license or state ID for Texas.
Though the individual can walk with just a ticket, it is still the case that possessing marijuana is considered a Class A or Class B misdemeanor offense.
The major reason for putting this program into effect is to reduce the incidences of individuals having to serve jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana. As a whole, this should help make it possible for officers to respond to emergencies faster and spend less time processing suspects, as well as keeping non-violent offenders out of jail in many instances. Since around 450 people were arrested in the Dallas County area last year who would have been eligible for cite-and-release, it definitely is much-needed alternative.
This program reduces the legal consequences beyond not having to serve any jail time. Another benefit is that you will not have your car impounded if marijuana in the amount of 4 ounces or less are found upon a search of your vehicle. All that will happen is the weed will be taken away and you would receive a citation. This would require that you attend the first of two dates in the cite-and-release courts that have recently been created.
Provided that you do show up for the court dates given, you should not be arrested. However, the penalties for possession of marijuana are still the same. This means the individual may be subject to up to 180 days in jail, along with a fine of up to $2,000 if he or she is in possession of less than 2 ounces. The penalties increase when the amount is between 2 and 4 ounces, which means up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
The Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson may grant the alternate punishment of a diversion program for individuals who are first-time offenders. The person would have to attend classes and community service, as well as be placed on probation. Individuals who finish out the program may be eligible for dismissal of charges.
Anyone who is caught with marijuana outside of Dallas city, or within the city but outside of the Dallas County will be subject to the rules previously set forth. Such cases almost certainly mean a trip to jail.
Individuals who wind up in a jail in Dallas County will have a chance to receive personal recognizance bonds, allowing them to be released without posting bail. This measure was put in place by the District Attorney to bring about more fairness to the cite-and-release program.