No Citations for Marijuana Possession in Brazos County

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Since September 1, law enforcement field officers have had the choice to either write a citation or arrest alleged suspects for Class A and B misdemeanors. Among those misdemeanors eligible for a citation is possession of four ounces or less of marijuana.

Even though law enforcement agencies can issue a citation for specific offenses, the law did not change the punishment for the charge.

"It still carries potential jail time, for a Class B, of up to 180 days in jail," said Rodney Anderson, the first assistant county attorney for Brazos County Attorney's Office. "A Class A charge still carries potential jail time of up to a year in jail."

Anderson says as of yet, the state law has not been a real option in Brazos County.

"The real problem with it is a logistical problem," Anderson said.

The reason why is that currently there are not procedures in place that would attach electronic identifying information to the person receiving the citation.

"When an officer writes a citation they don't take fingerprints," Anderson said. "They don't the capability out in the field.

Without fingerprints, Anderson says, the possession charge would be missing from the offender's criminal history, and the case could not be accepted by the Department of Public Safety. He also says it is possible the offender could go before a judge or magistrate who does not have proper jurisdiction to rule on the charge.

"We haven't found a good way to get the logistical information that courts need, that we need, that DPS needs without going through the arrest process," Anderson said.

Law enforcement officials recognize the intent of the law, which is to help jail overcrowding.

The Dallas Morning News reports Travis County Sheriff's Department is the only agency in Texas issuing citations.

Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk says right now the county jail is using other measures.

"We're doing the whole monitoring of work release and some bonding stipulated cases to help us reduce our populations," Kirk said.

Kirk says should Class A and B misdemeanors contribute grossly to overcrowding, then his office would ask the county officials to stream-line the issuing of citations.

"We may have to ask the prosecutors to help develop a protocol for that type of citation," Kirk said.