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How Serious Is a Possession of Marijuana Charge?

Attorney for Marijuana Possession Defense in Austin, TX

In November 2012, KUT-FM reported that an open records request showed that more than a quarter of the 18,000 people busted by the Austin Police Department (APD) for marijuana possession since 2009 were given notices to appear (commonly referred to as “marijuana tickets”) instead of being placed under arrest. Thanks in large part to the enactment of House Bill 2391 in 2007, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure § 14.06 was amended such that peace officers could issue citations instead of arresting people charged with any Class A or Class B misdemeanors who resided in the counties where the offenses occurred.

Marijuana possession offenses involving four (4) ounces or less of marijuana are charged as misdemeanors, so it is not surprising that many of the people who were beneficiaries of the 2007 bill were individuals charged with possessing cannabis.

While being issued a notice to appear is certainly preferable to being arrested, a person should not assume that a notice to appear is necessarily less serious than the formal arrest.

While it has the appearance of a basic traffic ticket, a notice to appear is still a requirement for an alleged offender to be in court to answer criminal charges. Failure to appear for the court date can result in a warrant being issued for the person’s arrest. Furthermore, the person issued the notice to appear still faces Class A misdemeanor or Class B misdemeanor criminal charges.

Attorney for Marijuana Possession Defense in Austin, TX

The APD policy manual has a list of conditions that disqualify a person from being issued a citation, with all of the following being considered disqualifying circumstances:

  • The subject is so intoxicated that he or she could be a danger to him or herself or to others;
  • The subject requires medical examination or medical care or is otherwise unable to care for his or her own safety;
  • An arrestee shall not be released from custody for the sole purpose of allowing that subject to obtain medical care and with the intention of immediately re-arresting the same individual upon discharge from the hospital unless it can be determined that the hospital can bill and collect from a third-party payment source;
  • There are one or more outstanding arrest warrants for the subject;
  • The subject could not provide satisfactory evidence of personal identification;
  • A full custody arrest is called for, or the officer has reason to suspect the subject is involved in a more serious offense and a custody arrest would serve to gather evidence to support another charge;
  • There is a reasonable likelihood that the offense(s) would continue or resume, or that the safety of persons or property would be imminently endangered by the release of the subject arrested;
  • The subject arrested demands to be taken before a magistrate or has refused to sign the citation;
  • There is reason to believe the subject would not appear at the time and place specified in the citation. The basis for this determination shall be specifically stated; or
  • The offense is DOC 12 (Exposure) and the exposure appears to have been committed deliberately, maliciously, or with sexual motivation.

Prior criminal records can play a major role in options available to alleged offenders accused of marijuana possession in Travis County. Some people can have their charges reduced to Class C misdemeanors if they agree to complete a 15-hour drug offender education program.

Kevin Bennett is an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Austin who can fight to possibly get your criminal charges reduced or dismissed. The Law Office of Kevin Bennett represents clients in Lakeway, Sunset Valley, Lago Vista, West Lake Hills, Pflugerville, Bee Cave, and many other nearby communities in Central Texas.

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