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The Round Rock Police Department is set to become the first Williamson County agency to pilot a cite-and-release program. The Austin American-Statesman reported on September 18, 2016, that police will no longer be immediately jailing people for allegedly driving with an invalid license or possession of marijuana under 2 ounces.

The Williamson County Commissioners Court approved a $65,000 grant for the county attorney’s office to pilot the program in 2017. The grant will pay for equipment such as fingerprint scanners and software, according to the Statesman.

Under the new program, people charged with driving with an invalid license or possessing less than 2 ounces of marijuana will be fingerprinted and go to a processing center to get their court dates. While the jail stay is being removed the criminal process, alleged offenders will still face the same criminal charges—and the same penalties, if convicted.

“Do we really need to be putting our people in jail if they’ve got a suspended license?” Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Judge Bill Gravell asked KXAN-TV. “As a resident of Williamson County, I’m far more concerned about our serious criminal offenses and those defendants being held in jail.”

KXAN reported that there were 1,781 cases of possession of marijuana under 2 ounces and 1,806 cases of driving with an invalid license in Williamson County in 2014. Both categories saw decreases in 2015, with 1,510 cases of possession of marijuana under 2 ounces and 1,164 cases of driving with an invalid license.

Lawyer for Marijuana Arrests in Georgetown, TX

While the cite-and-release program would help some alleged offenders avoid the embarrassment of spending a night in jail and the hassle of trying to bond out, it is unfortunate that people will still face criminal penalties for minor marijuana possession. Williamson County’s program certainly pales in comparison to the Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program implemented this past March in the state’s largest county by population, Harris County.

Under a new policy in Harris County, all alleged offenders caught possessing up to 4 ounces of marijuana can avoid arrest and criminal charges so long as they complete a voluntary diversion program within 90 days. Failure to complete the required program can result criminal charges being filed against alleged offenders.

Unfortunately for residents of and visitors to Georgetown and surrounding areas of Williamson County, possession of small amounts of cannabis will still result in criminal charges even if the encounters do not end with nights in jail. It is important for all people who are cited for driving with an invalid license or possession of marijuana to remember that any citations they are issued are treated as though they had been actual arrests.

Anybody accused of cannabis possession or driving with an invalid license should immediately seek legal representation. Michael J. Price is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Georgetown who aggressively defends clients accused of these types of offenses and fights to achieve the most favorable outcomes that result in the fewest possible penalties.

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