Under Houston’s new Cite and Release program, if you are suspected of committing certain Class A or B misdemeanors, police officers will issue you a citation, rather than arrest you and place you in jail. However, just because you didn’t get arrested, doesn’t mean you won’t be paying big fines or be sentenced to jail time if you’re convicted.
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Back in September, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner signed Executive Order No. 1-68 authorizing the City of Houston to join Harris County’s Cite and Release (CAR) program. CAR allows police officers to issue citations for certain Class A and B misdemeanors, instead of making an arrest and taking the suspect to jail. Its purpose is to reduce the non-violent offender jail population, reduce the amount of time officers spend on jail processing procedures, and improve police response times.
A List of Cite and Release Program Eligible Offenses
The offenses included in the CAR program are:
- Possession of Controlled Substance in Penalty Group 2-A, if the controlled substance is four ounces or less;
- Criminal Mischief, if the amount of pecuniary loss is $100 or more but less than $750;
- Graffiti, if the amount of pecuniary loss is $100 or more but less than $2500;
- Theft, if the value of the property stolen is $100 or more but less than $750;
- Theft of Service, if the value of the service stolen is $100 or more but less than $750;
- Contraband in a Correctional Facility, if the offense is a Class B misdemeanor; and
- Driving While License Invalid (DWLI).
Factors That Disqualify a Suspect from CAR
However, certain factors can disqualify a suspect from the cite and release program. These factors include:
- The suspect is to be charged with Possession of Marijuana (four ounces or less).
- The suspect is not a resident of Harris County.
- The suspect is younger than 17 years of age.
- The suspect demands an immediate appearance before a magistrate.
- The suspect has outstanding warrants.
- The suspect’s release could jeopardize their safety or the safety of others.
- The suspect requires immediate medical attention.
- The officer must use force to detain the suspect to ensure they stay at the scene and/or cooperates in the investigation of the alleged eligible offense.
- The suspect refuses to sign the CAR citation.
- The officer cannot positively identify the suspect (by government identification, Mobile AFIS, or reasonable means).
- The suspect is charged with additional offenses that are not covered under the CAR Program.
- The officer determines and supervisor concurs that there is reason to believe the suspect would not appear in court.
- The offense is DWLI, and the suspect is the at-fault driver in a crash.
- The charge is enhanced due to prior convictions.
- The suspect is on parole for any crime.
Just Because You Didn’t Get Arrested Doesn’t Mean You’re Out of Trouble
Being issued a CAP citation isn’t the same as getting a traffic ticket. You’ve been accused of committing a misdemeanor offense. You’ll still have to go to court. If convicted, you could still face jail time or a big fine. A conviction for a Class B Misdemeanor could cost you up to 180 days in jail and a fine up to $2,000; a conviction for a Class A Misdemeanor could cost you up to a year in jail and a fine up to $4,000.
You want to avoid going to jail or paying big fines if you don’t have to. If you’ve been issued a citation for a misdemeanor crime under Houston’s CAP program, you need to take steps to protect your rights. This includes hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent you. In addition to fines and possible jail time, a conviction for a misdemeanor charge will remain on your permanent public record, making it difficult for you to find a job, housing, or getting a loan.
Answers to Your Questions About Criminal Defense
Will an Arrest Stay on Your Record for the Rest of Your Life?
A criminal record is generally permanent, unlike say, a credit report, which is wiped clean every 7-10 years. There can be repercussions on loan applications, rental applications, college applications, and more. However, there are two ways to hide an arrest from public view; expungement and orders of non-disclosure.
In the case of expungement, all public records associated with the arrest are removed; it is as if the arrest never happened, and you are able to legally deny that you were arrested.
Orders of non-disclosure, also known as “Texas record sealing”, do not completely remove the arrest from your record, but they do hinder its disclosure to most parties.
Are There Common Mistakes That I Should Try to Avoid When Getting Arrested?
It is always a good idea to contact an experienced lawyer, but you should also avoid the following mistakes:
• Volunteering Evidence- Efforts to clear your name do not matter to the police; they are searching for evidence, and everything you say may be used against you.
• Resisting Arrest
• Witness Tampering- If you speak to someone who filed a complaint against you for the purpose of clearing your name, you may face charges.
• Sharing Too Much on Social Media- Do not use social media to share details about your case. You never know how someone could use it or interpret it!
What Factors Should I Consider When Choosing an Attorney?
Making the decision to hire a lawyer can be stressful and costly. When choosing a lawyer, keep these factors in mind:
• Choosing the cheapest option is not always a good idea. Less expensive lawyers tend to handle lots of cases. A lawyer’s assistant will often be your contact rather than the lawyer directly.
• Experience matters when choosing an attorney. Do they have experience with your kind of case? What kind of training have they had?
• Attorneys do not all have extensive experience in trying cases in front of juries. Ask them about their success rate if they have done so.
Speak to A Leading Harris County Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Houston CAP Case
Houston criminal defense attorney Lisa Shapiro Strauss has helped individuals arrested and charged with a misdemeanor or felony offenses. In many instances, her representation had resulted in dropped or reduced charges against her clients. Contact the law offices of Lisa Shapiro Strauss to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case.