First Texas City to Reduce Penalties for Possession of Marijuana

Police in San Marcos are now issuing citations for many nonviolent crimes instead of arresting those who commit lower-level infractions of the law. On April 21, 2020, the San Marcos City Council passed a cite-and-release ordinance for the following crimes:

  • Possession of fewer than 4 ounces of marijuana
  • Petty theft
  • Theft of services
  • Graffiti
  • Criminal mischief
  • Driving with an invalid license
  • Several Class C misdemeanors

Some of the charges not included in this resolution under state law are family violence, assault, and public intoxication.

Supporting the Ordinance

Council members passed this resolution on a 4-3 vote. One councilman said he voted for the ordinance because arrests are often made more for specific populations. He hopes that the ordinance will encourage the police officers to use discretion within set parameters. The law will be effective beginning May 31, 2020, in order to give the San Marcos police department time for training and to make official policy updates.

Data provided by Hays County reveals that in 2018, San Marcos police made arrests in 87 percent of situations where a citation would have sufficed. The following year, arrests were made 77 percent of the time in the same circumstances.

San Marcos Codifies its Ordinance

While the nearby cities of San Antonio and Austin have also enacted cite-and-release resolutions, San Marcos will be the first city in Texas to codify the resolution into law. The Austin Police Department saw a substantial decline in their arrest numbers for misdemeanor charges after following their new “Freedom City” policies. Under these policies, law enforcement officers were instructed to end nearly all discretionary arrests when the officer is allowed to give the offender a citation instead.

Opposition to the Ordinance

Not everyone is for these types of laws or ordinances, however. The San Marcos City Council received about 50 emails in opposition to the law and 170 for it. Even the San Marcos mayor verbalized that she is a supporter of the current Texas law. Under this law, officers have the ability to decide whether to issue a citation for these types of crimes or to arrest them if they believe the crime warrants such an action.

Valid Reasons to Make an Arrest

To give law enforcement officers more guidance, the ordinance does provide justifiable reasons to make an arrest. These include if the subject:

  • Does not live in Hays County
  • Is at risk of causing harm to themselves or others
  • Is unwilling to provide proper identification
  • Demands to be taken before a magistrate
  • Has an outstanding warrant
  • Is suspected of having committed a crime not included in the new ordinance

These new changes to the law will likely have more accused citizens reaching out to Austin criminal defense lawyers. They may question if they should have been arrested and need legal guidance with the recent changes and what they mean to their individual case.

Speak to Experienced Austin Criminal Defense Lawyers

You need an aggressive defense against criminal drug charges. Our Austin criminal defense lawyers can provide just that. At Granger and Mueller PC, we fight to make sure each of our clients receives the best possible outcomes possible when facing criminal charges involving drugs. We seek to limit damage to your family, future, wallet, career, and freedoms. Our seasoned team of attorneys can increase your chances of getting the charges made against you either reduced or dropped entirely. For a free case review to start building your defense, contact us today.