San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

May 28th, 2009
SMPD begins 'cite and release' option


Matching an initiative earlier this month by the Hays County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), the San Marcos Police Department (SMPD) has begun giving its officers the option of issuing citations for certain non-violent offenders instead of immediately booking such offenders in jail.

Starting last week, SMPD is allowed to issue citations for the same set of offenses outlined by the sheriff’s office on May 1: misdemeanor possession of marijuana (less than two ounces) and Class B misdemeanor violations graffiti, theft of service, driving with an invalid license, criminal mischief and contraband in a correctional facility.

SMPD Chief Howard Williams acknowledged that the citation option for graffiti “opens some issues” considering that the city council is looking at a tough graffiti ordinance that would make it illegal for people to merely possess certain graffiti tools in certain locations. However, Williams said, police will be no less vigliant just because graffiti violators can be cited and released.

“We’re going to hold people accountable,” Williams said.

Offenders who are cited will still have to appear in court to have their cases magistrated. The fact that a suspect has been cited doesn’t mean further sentencing won’t be forthcoming.

“You may ultimately be sentenced to jail,” Williams said.

When he announced the HCSO’s citation options four weeks ago, Hays County Sheriff Tommy Ratliff gave over-crowding in the county jail as one reason for the new policy. The state jail authority has told the county to make specific repairs by mid-June or face a remedial order, which could effectively shut down the jail.

However, Williams said SMPD is going to the citation options because it makes the most sense regardless of jail conditions.

“This is an issue of the best way to administer justice,” Williams said. ” … If we have people we know live in the county, they don’t have extensive criminal histories and they have good ID, it’s not necessarily in everybody’s best interests to put them in jail.”

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