Some Texas Counties Are Not Prosecuting Minor Crimes, Dallas Included
Policing and the criminal justice system has been under intense scrutiny over the past year. With tapes being released showing police brutality and mass gatherings protesting law enforcement tactics, many government officials have been forced to rethink how public safety is being reinforced. A recent article released by Chron reveals that a number of Texas counties are not prosecuting minor crimes. For some, this may seem like a red flag for a lack of public safety, while others may see this as a nod in the right direction for the criminal justice system.
Crimes That Will Not Get You Prosecuted
With the overcrowding of prisons and the high cost of the current criminal justice system, some Texas district attorneys are changing county policies in an attempt to reduce the jail population. Chron reporting reveals four locations that have taken a more modern, laissez-faire approach to criminal justice and policing:
Dallas County - The news report highlights four crimes that may no longer be prosecuted by Dallas County officials. In 2019, Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot began refusing to prosecute theft charges lower than $750 if the items were of personal needs, such as diapers. He also declined to prosecute misdemeanor marijuana possession charges for first-time offenders, though they must not have been committed in a drug-free zone or involve a deadly weapon. Criminal trespassing cases were also set aside if they did not involve a residence or physically breaking into another person’s property. Finally, Creuzot also put a halt on prosecuting those who are found driving on a suspended license, stating that those found guilty of this are often unable to afford to pay off their fines or fees.
Austin - A rule was established in 2020 that bans city funds from going toward minor marijuana possession prosecutions. Anyone found with less than 4 ounces of the substance—the amount that escalates from the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony—would not receive a ticket as long as they were within the Austin city limits.
Harris County - Kim Ogg, the Harris County District Attorney, created a pre-charge diversion program to allow Texans who meet certain criteria and are found with less than 4 ounces of marijuana to avoid a stain on their criminal record and time behind bars.
Bexar County - District Attorney Joe Gonzalez followed suit with a stricter version of these relaxed regulations. In Bexar County, individuals will not be prosecuted for misdemeanor marijuana offenses involving less than 1 ounce of the illegal substance. Additionally, a minor possession of penalty group one substance, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, will no longer be prosecuted if the amount is less than 0.25 grams.
Not all lawmakers in Texas favor these relaxed policies—far from it. Gov. Greg Abbott made his distaste of the policies apparent in a law enforcement forum held last month, calling to defund the police that followed the Black Lives Matter movement. Despite the pushback, Dallas District Attorney Creuzot stated that there has been no increase in shoplifting as a result of his policies.
Contact a Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer
The aforementioned counties may be taking a more relaxed approach to minor criminal charges, but the rest of the state has maintained the status quo. Regardless of where you live, hiring a reputable criminal defense attorney is critical to avoiding inaccurate or unjustly harsh sentences. The Crowder Law Firm, P.C. helps those throughout Northern Texas create successful defense strategies and take advantage of updated policies when applicable. If you live in these counties, you deserve to be informed about the reality of the laws in your area. Contact our seasoned Plano, Texas criminal defense attorneys at 214-303-9600 to schedule your free consultation.