Call for a FREE consultation at (713) 222-6767

Legal Blog

Does Houston's cite-and-release program do enough to reduce arrests image

Does Houston’s Cite-And-Release Program Do Enough to Reduce Arrests?

Published: Oct 14, 2020 in Criminal Defense

Beginning September 29, 2020, Houston police have the authority to cite-and-release instead of making arrests on certain low-level offenses. Modeled after similar programs in other jurisdictions where misdemeanor violations receive tickets rather than a trip to jail, police officials believe the program could cut down on thousands of arrests.

While attempting to decrease the amount of people in the Harris County justice system is admirable, these citations should still not be taken lightly. There are still consequences to your criminal record and the policy of issuing citations is not mandatory. As a result, some people may be ticketed, while others arrested – all for the same offense depending on the officer’s discretion.

Regardless of the details, you need a criminal defense attorney to explain your rights and the long-term implications of your situation. With decades of experience and a long history of helping people deal with charges contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767 for a free and confidential consultation.

Houston’s Cite-And-Release Details

Cite-and-release is the latest reform measure Houston instituted in response to the protests following the killing of George Floyd. Although a welcomed action, the measure doesn’t go far enough for some because cite-and-release is not mandatory. Officers still have discretion to make arrests for the offenses listed in the program.

Under the program, Houston officers can issue citations rather than arrest on certain misdemeanors. The individual must also be a resident of Harris County and not younger than 17 years old.

The Class A and B misdemeanors under cite-and-release include:

  • Possession of a controlled substance (less than 4 ounces)
  • Theft (stolen property in between $100 and $750)
  • Theft of Service (value in between $100 and $750)
  • Criminal Mischief (damage in between $100 and $750)
  • Graffiti (damage in between $100 and $2,500)
  • Contraband in a Correctional Facility
  • Driving While License Invalid

The city is also looking to revise some Class C misdemeanors to be included in the program as well.

The penalties for conviction on these criminal misdemeanors are:

  • Class A: Up to one year in county jail and up to $4,000 in fines
  • Class B: Up to 180 days in jail and up to $2,000 in fines
  • Class C: A fine of up to $500

Because you could face jail time and hefty fines, you don’t want to handle even misdemeanor charges on your own. Consider, too, that having a criminal record has consequences for your employment prospects.

Misdemeanor to Felony

Understand that the classes of misdemeanors above are defined by “values” or “amounts.” For example, you may be cited and released for a graffiti charge if the damage is under $2,500. But what happens if the state later finds the damage is more than that amount? Your charge could be increased to a felony. Penalties upon conviction would then include:

  • State jail* felony – 180 days to 2 years in jail, and fines of up to $10,000
  • Third degree felony – 2 to 10 years in prison, and fines of up to $10,000
  • Second degree felony – 2 to 20 years prison, and fines of up to $10,000
  • First degree felony – 5 years to life in prison, and fines of up to $10,000

*A state jail is a minimum-security prison for those convicted of non-violent crimes.

As you can see it’s important to work with an attorney as soon as possible so that you can mitigate negative outcomes whether you received a citation through the cite-and-release program, or you were arrested.

Charged with a Crime? Contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett

Changes in policing in Houston are happening in the wake of recent social unrest and more are expected. Although some believe they aren’t going far enough or happening as fast as they’d like, the cite-and-release program could keep thousands from being arrested. Not being processed into the jail and having to make bail, is a good step as it protects people from possibly missing work and important family responsibilities.

However, these citations still represent criminal charges with permanent repercussions. Many people may unknowingly just accept the citation without pursuing all of their options. In addition, since issuing these citations are open to interpretation, it may very likely result in a greater disparity in who really gets arrested and who gets a ticket.

Remember, you always have the right to the pursue the best possible outcome, whether it is a citation, a misdemeanor, or felony. No matter the charge, discuss all your options with an experienced criminal defense attorney like Ned Barnett.

Contact us today at people deal with charges contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767 or online for a free, confidential consultation. Don’t delay. The sooner Attorney Barnett gets to work for you, the quicker your life can get back to normal.