Drug possession attorney in Houston – In 2014, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson introduced the First Chance Intervention Program in 2014, for first time misdemeanor marijuana offenders to avoid the judicial process, avoid a criminal record following them around for the rest of their life, and save resources for law enforcement. The program has seen changes over the years to the conditions and its name.
The current program under District Attorney Kim Ogg, allows officers to cite the suspect, confiscate the marijuana and continue on with their patrol. This saves time and resources for both prosecutors and police officers that is better spent focusing on violent offenders and other crimes. The individual caught with the marijuana can take a four-hour class about decision-making, which costs $150 to attend, and complete it within the span of 90 days to avoid charges and an official record of the case. However, there are some areas in Harris County where those who are actually eligible for the program are never provided the chance to participate in it.
It seems that many of the municipalities along Galveston Bay are choosing to do things their own way. Instead of following the Harris County DA’s policy, some law enforcement agencies are filing a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia in the smaller municipal courts. The police agencies that seem to engage in this practice, according to a recent analysis, include the following:
DPS troopers in Harris County have submitted a total of more than 350 referrals for the program to the District Attorney’s Office. The Houston Police Department has referred 927 individuals for the diversion program, as of January 10th. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office had referred 342. Of the 61 law enforcement agencies in Harris County, only 12 had not referred a single person to the program.
Lakeview’s police chief has openly stated that he is ignoring the policy:
“Before the DA’s Office created their deferment program, we were filing cases of small quantities with our city courts under paraphernalia. It did not make any sense for us to take a defendant all the way downtown (jail contract was with Harris County Sheriff’s Office) to file on them for two joints. This would also cut our staffing in half for approximately three hours. We have continued to utilize our city courts since it works for us.”
The program under Kim Ogg’s tenure was initially launched back in March of 2017. Thus far, it has drawn a total of 3,209 participants, with 1,415 of them successfully completing the program as of January 11th. 816 individuals failed to complete the class on time, while 978 were currently within the 90-day limit to complete it. Ms. Ogg claims that the program has saved nearly $27 million dollars annually for the county.
I have had several clients arrested for possession of marijuana in counties surrounding Harris, such as Fort Bend and Montgomery, that were less than mile from the county line. Unfortunately for them, they had to go through the arrest process, faced the full range of punishment, which is anywhere from six months to one year in jail depending on the amount, and faced the potential of having a criminal record for the rest of their lives. It seems that in this part of Texas, if you are caught possessing marijuana, the outcome of your case could be drastically different depending on where you are found.
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