In a move that proponents said will trim New Orleans court dockets and give police more time to deal with major crimes, the New Orleans City Council voted unanimously yesterday to designate marijuana possession, prostitution, and two other relatively minor crimes as municipal offenses, giving police the option to issue a summons rather than make an arrest, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
If you get picked up for marijuana possession or prostitution in New Orleans, police no longer will have to arrest you and take you to jail. Until now, the crimes have been illegal only under state laws, meaning police had to arrest offenders and take them in for booking. Because defendants no longer will be jailed, even for a few hours, the city will be spared the expense of housing and feeding them, and the defendants’ own lives will not be needlessly disrupted, council members said. The other crimes involved are “flight from an officer” by the operator of a motor vehicle or boat if a police officer has used an emergency light and siren to signal the operator to stop, and interfering with a law enforcement investigation by refusing to move or leave the scene of a crime or accident when ordered to do so by a law enforcement officer.