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Cite and release for Houston

Good.

Houston is preparing a cite-and-release policy that could let people accused of certain misdemeanors off with a ticket instead of an arrest, perhaps the city’s most significant bid at criminal justice reform since the killing of George Floyd ignited a renewed national reckoning over policing.

Mayor Sylvester Turner previously has alluded to the effort, and the proposal is scheduled for discussion at the Public Safety Committee on Thursday. City Councilmember Abbie Kamin, who chairs that committee, said she has helped work on the policy.

“I’m thankful to community groups for advocating for this, and to HPD and Mayor Turner for bringing this forward so quickly,” Kamin said.

The details of the measure, which remain in the works, were not immediately available Monday, including which offenses would be included and whether tickets would be required — or merely preferred — instead of arrests. It also is unclear whether the measure would be an ordinance passed by the city council or an administration policy.

Since 2007, state law has allowed citations for all Class C misdemeanors and some others. Among them: possession of up to 4 ounces of marijuana; criminal mischief (damage up to $750); graffiti; theft of up to $750; providing contraband in a correctional facility; and driving with an invalid license. In those cases, officers can give offenders a written citation with a date and time to appear in court, allowing them to await the hearing without going to jail.

Advocates and elected officials in Houston have been calling for a cite-and-release policy for years. The “Justice Can’t Wait” report, released in July by a broad coalition of Houston-area criminal justice advocacy groups, renewed calls for the policy, and five city council members echoed that in a letter released late last month.

The mayor’s own transition team recommended such a policy in a 2016 report after Turner first was elected.

See here for some background. I know some people can’t sleep at night unless everyone who has ever encountered a police officer is in a jail cell, but would you rather have those officers spend their time hauling graffiti artists and people with expired licenses off to jail, or patrolling the streets after writing them a ticket? The Harris County Sheriff’s Office has had a similar policy since February, and as far as I can tell the region has not fallen into anarchy and chaos. Keep people out of jail and keep cops on the streets. And maybe that Task Force report (due by the end of the month) will have more.

UPDATE: Here’s a later version of the story, with some back-and-forth about whether the city should implement this now as a matter of policy, or draft an ordinance to mandate cite-and-release and implement it that way.

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9 Comments

  1. Alex Bunin says:

    Nothing new to see here. As Judges Jordan and Bynum said, we already have the mechanism for cite and release. No ordinance is required. However, to make this work they need buy-in from the DA. All law enforcement in Harris County must call Intake before bringing charges. The ADA answering the phone is likely to decide whether the person should be cited or arrested and that will be based on office policy.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    “….would you rather have those officers spend their time hauling graffiti artists and people with expired licenses off to jail, or patrolling the streets after writing them a ticket?”

    Well, if the ‘graffiti artist’ in question had just gotten caught vandalzing MY property, damage that would cost me a lot of money and time to fix, then yeah, call me selfish…I want the officer to take time out of his day to ferry the ‘graffiti artist’ to jail and book the artist.

    In a similar vein, if the unlicensed driver hit me, yes, I want that driver arrested, taken to jail, and the car impounded. Call me selfish. If it’s a non accident stop, I’d be OK with citing the driver and impounding the car, or would even be OK with the officer at the scene allowing the unlicensed driver to call a licensed driver to drive the car home, officer’s judgement.

    I wonder how everyone here feels about arrests for these things if THEY personally were effected. I’ve been hit by a no license illegal alien before and guess who was on the hook to pay for my bumper? Yeah, it was me.

    The girl that hit me actually had a month to month policy, and I confirmed that with the insurance agent, that she had coverage while we were standing there after the accident. I felt bad for her, knew she was illegal, but figured, as long as she had insurance and I physically heard her tell the insurance agent she was at fault for rear ending me, I figured I’d let it go, didn’t call the police.

    Long story short, her insurer didn’t pay, the insurance agent lied about talking to me and the insured at the scene, and the girl I felt sorry for boned me by ducking the insurance adjuster, so they denied my claim. Never again. I’ll make a stink if I get hit again and the driver isn’t arrested.

  3. Manuel says:

    Bill you are a known liar, you will say anything to promote hate. But, that is typical for Trump lovers.

  4. brad says:

    Bill,

    Your story sound eerily familiar to 2016 Trump voters.

    The Mexicans didn’t pay for the wall, Trump lied about the amount of wall built, Trump ducked all the questions about that the “new” wall was actually refurbished wall, and the Trump administration denied claims that the USA was actually funding the wall. Never again. Hillbillies will make a stink now that they get a chance again and Trump will probably be arrested for insurance fraud and other felony indictments after his term ends.

  5. brad says:

    Bill,

    Oh, and its “affected”, not “effected”.

    Your TOEFL class at your Russian university should really work on its grammar instruction.

  6. Bill Daniels says:

    Brad,

    Correct on the word usage, and thanks for the save. We can all use a refresher, once in a while, right?

    I notice you and Manny failed to state your own opinions on the subject at hand, arrest or cite. So let’s just clarify this with two questions for both of you:

    ~If YOUR house is damaged by a ‘graffiti artist’ would you want the culprit arrested and jailed, or cited and released?

    ~If YOU are hit by an unlicensed driver, would you want the culprit arrested and jailed, or cited and released?

    I’m glad you mentioned the wall, Brad! 325 miles built so far, and more projects are in progress! Trump is keeping his promises about the wall, peace in the Middle East, etc.

    https://www.trumpwall.construction/

    How far we have come, from Nancy Pelosi boldly confessing, “No, nothing for the wall!” The wall unites Americans, and is visible proof that our government cares for our safety!

  7. brad says:

    325 miles?!….laughing out loud right now.

    So Trump steals $ funds from the Defense budget for an ineffective wall. Head slap.

  8. Bill Daniels says:

    Brad,

    Answer the simple questions, please. It’s the whole point of Kuff’s post, after all.

    Arrest or cite when it is YOUR stuff that is damaged and destroyed. C’mon man! It’s an opinion question. There are no wrong answers.

  9. […] here and here for the background. I largely agree with Judge Jordan here, with two caveats. One, late is […]