San Marcos Passes Cite-and-Release Law

It seemed kind weird when Austin adopted a policy of citing people for crimes that typically resulted in arrest under a “Freedom City” policy, but then it is Austin.  The San Antonio chimed in with its own policy of citing and releasing people for certain non-violent crimes.  Now, San Marcos has taken it to the next step by becoming the first Texas city to enact a Cite-and-Release Ordinance requiring police officers to issue citations rather than arrest people for certain non-violent crimes.  The measure passed the city council vote by a vote of 4 to 3.

Crimes Covered by San Marcos’ Cite-and-Release Ordinance

Under the new Cite-and-Release Ordinance, police officers are compelled to write a citation and release the perpetrators of the covered crimes. The crimes covered by the Ordinance include:

All Class C misdemeanors except for public intoxication, family violence, or assault, and;

The following Class B misdemeanors: Possession of under 4 ounces of marijuana, criminal mischief, driving with an invalid license, graffiti, theft of property, theft of services.

Unanswered Questions

The law does not go into effect until May 31st to give law enforcement time to retrain on how to comply with the law. This is probably a good thing since there are still many unanswered questions.  For example, will officers be held legally liable for false imprisonment if they arrest someone for a crime that they should have ticketed under this law? What if they arrest them for a higher crime and it gets pea-bargained down to a lesser offense?  Lastly, if an officer tickets a person for driving without a license and lets them go, isn’t he negligently entrusting the person with a vehicle by letting them go? It will be interesting to see how some of these issues are addressed.

Party School to Party City?

San Marcus is famous for its college “Texas State University” which is rumored to have changed its name from South West Texas to try to get away from the “party school” reputation it was known for.  Perhaps, reducing the number of arrests for things such as drug underage alcohol possession and drug possession is a further attempt to escape the stigma?  If so, making it easier for people to simply walk away and pay a fine with zero time could backfire. Whatever the logic and the results to come, San Marcus can forever boast they were the first to pass a Cite-and-Release Ordinance.