The Bexar County District Attorney’s Office has added a Cite and Release dashboard to its website. The interactive graphic includes data from the date law enforcement began participating on July 1, 2019, through July 30, 2020. To see the dashboard, click here.
“This full year of data shows nearly 2,500 people avoided being taken to jail for a non-violent, low-level offense. While it has spared those individuals the time and expense of a criminal case including jail time, bond fees, legal fees. In just the first year, Cite and Release has saved taxpayers more than $1.8 million in jail booking costs. Simply by writing a citation and returning to duty instead of spending hours taking an individual to jail, law enforcement has also been able to keep officers on the streets where they can be available to respond to calls from the public,” said District Attorney Joe Gonzales.
The program was created by the Texas Legislature 13 years ago. It allows local jurisdictions to choose to issue tickets for those offenses.
When law enforcement issues the citation, the individual reports to Bexar County’s Reentry Center. An Assistant District Attorney reviews the facts provided by law enforcement and, if approved for Cite and Release diversion programs, the individual would be given the opportunity to participate. If that individual successfully completes the programs, he/she would not have the violation appear on any criminal record. Those who either do not complete the programs or do not meet the criteria for various reasons would be placed on a court track. There, pre-trial diversion programs are also considered and the individual may still avoid having a record of the violation.
The dashboard does explain that nearly 64% of the citations the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office has received from law enforcement were for possession of misdemeanor marijuana. However, more than 96% of those citations were rejected, meaning those individuals cited did not have to participate in any diversion programs. The dashboard shows most people referred to the court track were cited for misdemeanor theft offenses.
“It is important to note that the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office has a policy of declining to accept cases of one ounce or less of marijuana from law enforcement. Shortly before we implemented Cite and Release in Bexar County, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that redefined marijuana as containing more than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Anything below that amount is considered hemp. Our office also requires a lab report to determine whether the drugs obtained during an arrest are, in fact, marijuana weighing more than one ounce,” Gonzales said.
The Bexar County District Attorney’s Office does not maintain data on law enforcement’s decision to cite or arrest a person for a qualifying offense. That information may be obtained from law enforcement. Click here to see the San Antonio Police Department's Fourth Quarter Data on Cite and Release.
“As with any policy of the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, cite and release does not dictate when law enforcement may make an arrest. It is our responsibility to consider each individual case when it reaches our office and to determine what the best path is for the individual and the community,” Gonzales said.
In October, the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office published its first dashboard on family violence data. Other dashboards will be added to the website soon.
Click here to view the full Cite and Release webpage.