People suspected of misdemeanor offenses such as marijuana possession, when the amount is small, and suspended licenses, would be cited instead of taken to jail under a new Austin Police Department policy, the Austin American-Statesman reported over the weekend.
Such Class A and Class B misdemeanors also include theft or criminal mischief that results in less than $500 damage.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo hopes to have the policy, which comes more than a year after the legislature passed a cite and release law, in place by year's end.
Offenders would still be cited and given a court date.
Proponents says such policies "eases the strain on jails, saves relatively minor offenders from spending hours behind bars and frees officers to stay on the street and pursue more serious criminals," according to the Austin American-Statesman article.
Opponents say it just encourages a lax drug policy.
To that charge, Chief Acevedo told the newspaper:
"Some people think if you site (sic) and release them, you are being easier on them. Folks forget that on the back end of the process, the accountability and the penalties and consequences don't change."
While some larger cities like Dallas have already changed policies to allow officers to decide which persons are cited and which ones get carted off to jail, Houston police officials don't have plans to stop arresting people suspected of committing certain Class A and Class B misdemeanors.
(Photo: Police car approaching a closed road in California. Photo by FEMA/Adam DuBrowa.)