Bexar County to launch 'cite and release' program for non-violent offenders
SAN ANTONIO - Bexar County leaders announced a new pilot program to 'cite and release' non-violent offenders to keep the Bexar County Jail from becoming too crowded and with the intent to save taxpayer money.
According to Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood said certain offenses will qualify for the program, including some marijuana offenses. Arrests involving synthetic marijuana charges will not be part of the new program.
"These offenses really shouldn't be stuck in our jail, we have been trying to do our best with the county judge and sheriff to clear out our jails, so they shouldn't be stuck in our jails. This is about not overcrowding our system and then giving the opportunity to low level, nonviolent offenders,” said District Attorney Nico LaHood.
District Attorney Nico LaHood says he has been discussing a cite and release program with Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar and San Antonio Police Chief William McManus for more than a year. The concept is, if a police officer pulls you over for committing a misdemeanor crime, they have a right to give you a ticket and let you go. They will not arrest you and you will not immediately be charged.
"They are going to still follow their SOP, standard operating procedure, they will probably do some sort of frisk and if they believe they have probable cause to arrest, they can still do a search,” said LaHood.
The ticket you get would have a date you must appear at the Bexar County courthouse. There you would be placed into a program and class. If you successfully complete that within the time designated, you would never have a charge on your record.
"The Bexar County jail is for people that as a society we are afraid of, not for people that we are just mad at and to be honest that is what the system has become, we are locking people up who we are simply mad at,” said Sheriff Javier Salazar.
These are the crimes DA LaHood says would be a part of the program:
Class A & B possession of marijuana
Class B criminal mischief
Class B theft
Class B theft of service
Class B driving while license invalid
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said the Bexar County Jail should be reserved for people he described as a 'threat' to the community, not non-violent offenders.
Other criminal offenses expected to be part of the pilot program include: criminal mischief, theft, theft of service and driving while license invalid.
Back in July, jail overcrowding forced the county to move nearly 100 inmates to the Karnes County Jail at a cost of thousands of dollars each day.
At the time, the jail was 97% full and the county was paying millions in overtime to staff the facility.
LaHood said the program would last for as long as it's working.