A trend has emerged in recent years for district attorneys in larger Texas counties to dismiss a greater number of cases involving small amounts of marijuana.
The largest counties by population in Texas–Bexar, Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Travis–have had a greater number of dismissals since 2011, according to analysis by the Austin American-Statesman.
The review was done by looking at statistics released by the Texas Office of Court Administration. The OCA keeps statistics and analysis of court information and case activity, and reports and studies about the courts and the judiciary.
The analysis revealed that the region that has had the fastest increase in dismissals of these cases is north Texas. A quarter of these cases were dismissed last year in Tarrant County compared to nine percent five years ago. During that same time period, dismissals in Dallas County went from 18 to 41 percent.
Although the cases are being dismissed, it was reported that the number of cases filed by law enforcement has remained roughly the same.
The issue apparently reflects a decision on where to use resources. Travis County prosecutor Dan Hamre told the Statesman, “Jurors would look at us like we are crazy … You are spending your time, our time and the court’s time on a small amount of personal marijuana?”
In January 2016, William Kelly, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas reported that an innovative new program in Harris County provided individuals caught with less than two ounces of marijuana a choice to participate in treatment and/or community service and avoid a criminal conviction. He said Harris and Dallas Counties should be watched for any new programs. He noted that Dallas County considered a cite-and-release program as well.
In March, however, the Dallas City Council decided against trying a six-month citation program. It would have allowed those found with a small amount of marijuana to avoid jail time and receive only a fine and court summons. The plan was defeated by a 10-5 vote, WFAA reported. The pilot effort would have gone into effect in September and concluded in March 2017. City officials would thereafter have had a review period.
Republican state representative Bryan Hughes told the Statesman, “Whatever kind of case we are talking about, we expect law enforcement and prosecutors to use discretion and put the resources in the best place.”