Nueces County’s “Cite and Release” program, which starts April 24, is the first of its kind in the state; and the District Attorney’s office knows the eyes of Texas are indeed upon them.
“It gives our office the opportunity to set the standard, and we gladly shoulder that burden,” said Matt Manning, First Assistant District Attorney.
Under “Cite and Release”, Nueces County residents detained for one of seven Class A or B misdemeanors; possession of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance, theft, theft of service, criminal mischief, graffiti, and possession of contraband in a correctional facility; can get a citation instead of a trip to jail.
“If an officer has probable cause to arrest you for an offense, he or she would have the discretion to issue you a citation,” said Manning.
That means officers still make the call on whether to cite or arrest. Nueces County Sheriff J.C. Hooper, who prefers the term cite in lieu of arrest, applauds that decision.
“The fact that the police officer or the sheriff’s deputy on the street will make that decision is a good thing,” said Hooper. “That’s where that decision needs to be.”
Once cited, defendants have to appear at a mass arraignment, held twice a month at the county courthouse. Law enforcement believes that is where the program’s success will be judged.
“We’ll see how many of them honor their responsibility to answer that charge,” said Hooper.
Even if someone is cited instead of being arrested, those misdemeanors still carry their full penalties. Up to a $2,000 fine and up to six months in jail for a Class B misdemeanor, or up to a $4,000 fine and up to 12 months in jail for a Class A.
“People are going to be concerned that this is going to lessen punishment, or lessen enforcement; it absolutely will not, all it’s going to do is change the inception of the case,” said Manning.