Houston Police Join Cite & Release Program

Cite and Release: Houston Police Join County Program 

houston police join cite and release program in harris county

In mid-September, the Houston Police Department announced the implementation of a cite and release program for minor offenses. Under their current policy, these offenses would require officers to take offenders to Harris County Jail. 

Houston City Council’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee detailed the program in a presentation on September 17. In 2007, the Texas Legislature established this policy as an option for law enforcement agencies throughout the state. Before this presentation, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office adopted the policy. 

On Monday, September 28, 2020, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner signed an executive order to institute the policy.

What Is a Cite and Release Program? 

With a cite and release policy, officers have the option to write tickets for minor criminal offenses. The policy enacted by the Mayor limits eligible offenses to some class A or B misdemeanors that meet certain criteria.

Examples of eligible offenses include the following:

  •           Driving without a license 
  •           Trespassing 
  •           Graffiti below $2500 
  •           Theft below $750

With the program enacted, HPD’s policy will mirror the protocols of Harris County. However, it is important to note that this policy is only in effect in Harris County. If you are in Montgomery County or Fort Bend County, this program is not in effect. 

Policies in Texas 

Cite and release policies are not new in Texas. However, with criminal justice reform gaining support across the country, the policy is gaining traction. In February 2020, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez explained the importance of the program. 

“We have a growing jail population here. We house close to [9,000] every month…we’ve had to outsource because we reached capacity and we don’t want to do that. We want to make sure there’s enough bed space for more violent criminals.”

Per Sheriff Gonzalez, San Antonio and other cities across Texas already have similar programs in place. As the Mayor signed the executive order, Gonzalez noted that his department has written about 60 tickets since implementing the program. 

“I went to several of the court hearings personally, and everyone showed up to court.”

Who Qualifies for Cite and Release? 

According to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedures (Article 14.06), there are certain qualifying offenses:

  •           Drug possession under 4 ounces 
  •           Criminal mischief under $750 in damages 
  •           Theft under $750 
  •           Graffiti under $2500 in damages 
  •           Driving with an invalid license (so long as you are not the at-fault driver in a crash)
  •           Being caught with something you shouldn’t have in a correctional facility

Someone cannot qualify when they are under 17 years of age, have outstanding warrants, or are currently on parole. Moreover, police officers will decline citations if the person poses a risk to public safety.  

Another important note is that officers cannot release the person when they demand an immediate appearance before a magistrate. They also cannot release a person in need of medical attention. 

When someone qualifies, the officer must confirm their identity and ensure they reside within Harris County. There will be a background check, the officer will call the District Attorney’s office to confirm eligibility. Following this, the officer will ask the person to sign the Cite and Release Citation form.

Cite and Release with a Criminal Defense Attorney 

Enacting a cite and release program across Harris County law enforcement is progress for criminal justice reform. However, many advocates hold concern over its effects on Black and Latino communities. To ensure fair treatment, you need an advocate on your side who will fight for your best interests. 

At The Martinez Law Firm, we strive to attain the best possible outcome in every case. If you receive a ticket in this new cite and release program, contact our Houston criminal defense attorney. With a free legal consultation, we will evaluate your case and help you find the best course of action. Contact us today. 

NEW TEXAS LAW HEIGHTENS HIT AND RUN SENTENCES

Presently, the hit and run penalties in Texas are harsh, but not harsh enough to discourage the act in many cases. According to Texas lawmakers, the current penalties set for hit and run accidents are less severe than the penalties for DUI manslaughter. Oftentimes, hit and run offenders are intoxicated individuals who don’t want to be caught while under the influence of alcohol.

As a result, they will flee the scene of a serious accident, hoping that the police will not discover that they were driving drunk when the crash occurred. This way, even if they are caught, these suspects assume that they will be charged with a hit and run, rather than a severe intoxication manslaughter charge.

On September 1st, the Texas state government will pass a new law allowing the courts to heighten the penalties for a hit and run. The new penalties will be equivalent to the penalties for a
DUI manslaughter charge. This way, individuals that are involved in a DUI accident will not have any advantage by trying to flee the scene of the incident.

Texas officials are hopeful that this change in penalty structures will further discourage the practice of hit and runs. Now, individuals who hit another car and cause severe injury or death, and then flee the scene of the crime, can be sent to prison for between two and twenty years. They can also be issued a fine of up to $1,000.

If you are arrested for a hit and run, you will certainly want a Houston criminal defense attorney on your side. With these new laws going into effect on September 1st, 2013 you will want an attorney there to advocate on your behalf and petition for a plea bargain or a lighter sentence. Talk to our team at The Martinez Law Firm today!

SUPREME COURT DECLARES SILENCE CAN BE HELD AGAINST YOU

Last week, the Supreme Court weighed in on a case where the defendant claimed that his Fifth Amendment rights were violated because his silence was used against him in the case. The defendant was originally called in as
a witness on a murder case, and was responding to officers’ questions when they asked him if his shotgun shells would match the shells found at the scene of the crime. At this time, the man who had been open to talk before clammed up and would not answer any more questions. He refused to respond to law enforcement, shuffled his feet, and displayed signs of extreme discomfort.

The man was arrested for his incriminating behaviors, and eventually convicted as the murderer in a case in Texas. His defense attorney then appealed the case, claiming that because his silence was used as evidence of guilt, the case was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court looked at the situation, and justices decided that the man should be found guilty for murder and that his silence could be used to prove this fact.

They say that this is because the man was not under arrest at the time
that the interview took place. Instead, the defendant was in the middle
of a witness interview. He had not been arrested, and had not been read
his Miranda Rights. Now, the Supreme Court claims that before an arrest
or before Miranda Rights are read, law enforcement can use a person’s
silence as evidence that they are guilty of a crime.

This has far-reaching implications for criminal cases in every state. If
you have been arrested for a crime and your silence was used against you,
you need to get a Houston criminal defense lawyer involved right away. With the right criminal defense attorney on your side you may be able to challenge your case and receive a reduced sentence or a dismissal!

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DEATH’S AT BIRTHDAY PARTY IN NORTH TEXAS

Recently, a domestic violence fight erupted at a girl’s 16th birthday that ended in the tragic death of both of her parents. According to KHOU, the parents began arguing as the party, and the argument escalated when a gun was pulled. The father, Kelly Suckla, shot his wife Kristi near the door of the home at about 10:00 p.m. After realizing what he had just done, the enraged father turned the gun on himself in the front yard and committed suicide. While the couple had been estranged for years, they were still married and were allegedly on amicable terms. Both had chosen to get together for their daughter’s birthday to make it a special day for her. Kristi allegedly moved into her parent’s home two months before her death and was hosting the Sweet 16 at this residency.

Neighbors were speechless when they heard about the shocking deaths. They say that this is relatively a quiet neighborhood that is full of families and laughter. The family members at the party were aware that both husband and wife would be at the party together, and the violence was not anticipated in the least. Family members who were there at the time of the death include the couple’s daughter and son. Though they did not witness the shooting, both children say that they hear the screams and the gunfire.

Tragically, this is not the only domestic violence murder that has taken place in Texas in recent years.

In fact, in recent days the number of murders has more than doubled. There were 26 murders related to a domestic argument in Dallas alone last year, which is saddening when there were only 10 the year before. The spike in abuse cases may be related to the unemployment levels in Texas. Many researchers say that when spouses aren’t employed it can be unhealthy for their relationships and may cause tension that can lead to abuse. In Texas, officers are now prioritizing domestic abuse cases above others to tackle this extreme and saddening problem.

If you have been accused of domestic violence, you may be facing serious sentences for your crime. If you need someone to advocate for you in court to prove your innocence, then The Martinez Law Firm may be the right firm for you.

La-Z-Boy DUI a Windfall for the Police

Last month I mentioned Dennis LeRoy’s DUI arrest while sitting in his
La-Z-Boy. Mr. Leroy went on probation for his second DUI conviction and
lost his beloved chair. What makes his story even more amazing is that
it made over
$43,000
for the Proctor, MN police office. Sadly, he will not be receiving any
money from the sale of his La-Z-Boy since he gave it to them as part of
his plea bargain.

Texas Should Follow South Dakota’s Lead

One of the advantages of being part of the
National College of DUI Defense is that every member of the college helps one another. Recently, I was
able help fellow
DWI Attorney,
Brad Schreiber of South Dakota, with a Texas licensing issue. While exchanging emails with him I was
made aware of the fact that his state repealed the implied consent law
in 2006. The affect of this is that South Dakota is one of the few states
that do not require a breath test. In fact, his state requires a blood
test in DWI cases.

In the past few years Texas has been expanding how law enforcement may
collect a blood sample from someone that is arrested for DWI. If this
continues Texas should explore eliminating the implied conset law as it
relates to the breath/alcohol test.

DWI Lawyer Seminar Highlights

After spending a long weekend with fellow DWI lawyers at a DWI seminar I found the seminar to be informative. For instance, not every state has a jury trial for a DWI offense. There are some jurisdictions that do not recognize the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA) manual despite using all the tests. Most surprising, there are
some jurisdictions that do not have an open discovery policy. I would
find it difficult to properly prepare for a trial without having all the
evidence beforehand to analyze and prepare my defense.

The more I attend these seminars and compare and contrast other jurisdictions the better I feel about being a Houston DWI attorney in Harris County, Texas.

DWI Seminar

I am off to another DWI seminar this weekend. I hope to learn even more
about field sobriety tests, and how the police adminster them incorrectly.
This is three full days of working through all the issues that arise out of a
DWI arrest.

I am always interested in these seminars because it gives me an opportunity
to meet DWI attorneys from across the country. You would be surprised
how differently people handle DWI cases.