Texas lawmakers tried to help ease jail overcrowding when they passed legislation allowing police to write tickets for misdemeanor marijuana possession and a few other nonviolent crimes. The new law, which went into effect Sept. 1, is being used only in Austin’s Travis County. reports the Dallas Morning News. The new law gives officers the option to arrest, as they have been doing, or write tickets for possession of less than 4 ounces of marijuana. Some supporters of the law say nonviolent offenders could be treated the same as drivers who get caught speeding and agree to go before a judge.
Critics say these class A and B misdemeanors could still result in jail time and require investigators to build a solid case for prosecution. As a result, the burden of making sure that suspects make it to court and no one is misidentified is higher. For Greg Davis, Collin County’s first assistant district attorney, one of his qualms with the new law is the perception created by ticketing for a drug offense, instead of making an arrest. It may “lead some people to believe that drug use is no more serious than double parking,” he said. “We don’t want to send that message to potential drug users, particularly young people.”