Cite and Release has allowed many states began to reduce the number of arrests for marijuana possession over the past few years, and cannabis users were comforted knowing they could get a ticket instead of jail time for simple possession. Several law enforcement agencies in Texas now issue tickets for possession of four ounces or less of marijuana.
This program is known as cite and release and still involves certain consequences. A ticket for possession can involve more serious penalties than your traditional traffic ticket, and an alleged offender will still be facing misdemeanor charges in many cases that can involve significant fines and a possible jail sentence.
Cite and Release Defense Lawyer in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine, Keller, and Southlake, TX
Did you receive a citation instead of being arrested for marijuana possession Contact the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy today at (817) 422-5350 for a consultation about your alleged offense in Southlake, Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine, Keller, and surrounding areas of Tarrant County, TX area. Our firm can help with your cite and release charge and can fully review your case and help you explore your legal options.
Elements of Cite and Release in Texas
Many police officers in Tarrant County now issue alleged offenders marijuana tickets instead of making arrests for possession of four ounces or less of marijuana. An alleged offender can still face immediate arrest when they do not comply with law enforcement officers.
Texas law states that when an alleged offender does not do one of the following they could be arrested for marijuana possession:
- Failure to provide identification (ID)
- Having outstanding warrants
- Refusing to sign a ticket or demanding to see a magistrate
- Not being Texas residents
- Being suspected of a more serious offense
- Being intoxicated to a level that police decide the alleged offender presents a danger to themselves or others
An arrest or a ticket concerning marijuana possession of four ounces or less typically results in a misdemeanor charge. A cite and release policy will be a directive to law enforcement officers to issue citations, tickets, or warnings for some low-level offenses instead of making arrests.
Under current state law, utilizing cite and release is an option but it is not necessarily mandatory. Under a cite and release program, if alleged offenders receive citations, instead of being arrested and sent to jail, they receive a summons to report to specific locations at later dates to handle the charge(s).
An officer can also issue a warning and let the person go without writing a citation. The goals of cite and release programs are to reduce racial disparities in policing and arrests, reduce the number of overall arrests, eliminate discretionary arrests for some low-level offenses, decrease the arrest-to-deportation pipeline, increase data transparency between local law enforcement agencies and the public, and institutionalize community involvement in policy making and implementation.
A citation or ticket is better than an arrest because it not only avoids the harmful effects of an arrest but when it concerns COVID-19, an arrest also means a higher chance of infection or even death for both the officer and the alleged offender. A strong cite and release policy will have a clear directive to police officers to issue citations, tickets, or warnings instead of making arrests, with only limited disqualifying circumstances, and involve a data transparency mandate such as regular public data reports on the use of cite & release, including demographic information of individuals affected, have a robust and regular forum for community input in the implementation of the policy, create an accountability mechanism if officers violate the policy, take form as an ordinance, not an administrative policy, include all eligible offenses, and involve a pre-charge diversion element allowing for alleged offenders who are cited to participate in diversion programs and avoid an arrest, criminal charges, contact with courts, and potentially harmful effects of a criminal record.
Citation-eligible offenses may include all Class C Misdemeanors (except public intoxication) and certain Class A and Class B Misdemeanors, such as:
- Possession of Marijuana less than 4 ounces
- Possession of Controlled Substance less than 4 ounces, Penalty Group 2-A (such as synthetic marijuana)
- Criminal Mischief with damage up to $750
- Theft of up to $750 in property
- Theft of up to $750 in services
- Driving with an invalid license
- Contraband in a Correctional Facility
Dallas and El Paso have cite and release programs for marijuana possession offenses only. Austin, San Marcos, and San Antonio have broader cite and release programs.
Penalties for Marijuana Tickets in Texas
Cite and release offenses for marijuana possession are still criminal offenses. While receiving a ticket may feel more like a traffic citation, you may still face Class A or Class B misdemeanor charges.
Texas Health and Safety Code § 481.121 establishes drug possession penalties based on the quantity of a drug. Possession of as much as two ounces of marijuana will be a Class B misdemeanor.
A Class B misdemeanor conviction can result in either or both of the following:
- Up to 180 days in jail
- Fine of up to $2,000
Possession of more than two ounces or up to four ounces of marijuana will be a Class A misdemeanor. A conviction for a Class A misdemeanor may result in either or both of the following:
- Up to one year in jail
- Fine of up to $4,000
Possession of any more than four ounces of marijuana can result in an actual arrest and a possible felony charge. Felony marijuana possession penalties often include:
- 4 ounces to 5 pounds — State Jail Felony punishable by up to two years in state jail and/or fine of up to $10,000
- 5 to 50 pounds — Third-Degree Felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or fine of up to $10,000
- 50 to 2,000 pounds — Second-Degree Felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or fine of up to $10,000
- More than 2,000 pounds — First-Degree Felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison and/or fine of up to $50,000
You also need to keep in mind that an alleged offender who is apprehended while possessing large amounts of cash, possessing more drugs than are necessary for individual use, possessing weapons or guard dogs, possessing paraphernalia such as scales or packaging material, possessing a chemical lab, possessing the equipment necessary to transport drug manufacturing materials, or possessing the chemicals needed to manufacture a controlled substance can face possession with intent to distribute charges, and such encounters usually do result in arrests. Criminal penalties may be enhanced in these cases.
Even a misdemeanor conviction can still be devastating to your life. Misdemeanor charges may seriously impact your professional goals, personal relationships, and educational endeavors.
Tarrant County Cite and Release Resources
Tarrant Finally Uses Cite and Release | Fort Worth Weekly — This is the Fort Worth Weekly discussing Tarrant County finally deciding to enact cite and release in July 2021. The article notes that Tarrant County Jail garnered statewide attention with over 20 jail population deaths in 2020. Bexar County, Dallas County, Harris County, and Travis County had already enacted cite and release policies.
Cite and Release | Tarrant County — View the official Tarrant County webpage for cite and release information. The website notes that under certain conditions, law enforcement officers can elect to issue a citation to an alleged offender being charged with committing a Class A or Class B misdemeanor offense, and the citation will contain written notice of the time and place the alleged offender must appear before a magistrate. The alleged offender receiving the citation must appear in court on the date and time indicated on the citation, and the alleged offender will be fingerprinted, complete a financial questionnaire, be advised of their rights, and have the opportunity to request a court-appointed attorney.
Find A Tarrant County Defense Attorney for Cite and Release Charges | Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy
If you received a citation for marijuana possession or another misdemeanor offense in Fort Worth or a surrounding area of Tarrant County, you cannot afford to think that the ticket will be an easy matter to resolve because you could still be facing significant criminal penalties. Make sure that you go into court with proper legal counsel so you can have the best possible chance of fighting and overcoming your criminal charges.
The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy regularly handles all kinds of cite and release cases, so we know the most effective ways of dealing with these criminal charges and achieving the most desirable outcomes. Call (817) 422-5350 or contact us online to receive a free consultation that will allow us to take a much longer look at your case and go through all of the details while outlining what legal options you will have.