Texas D.A. Eases Penalties on Drug Paraphernalia
The Harris County (Texas) District Attorney’s Office will no longer file felony charges against suspects found with crack pipes or other drug paraphernalia containing trace amounts of drug residue, the Houston Chronicle reported Dec. 8.
People found with less than a hundredth of a gram of illegal drugs will be ticketed for a class C misdemeanor starting in 2010, according to D.A. Pat Lykos. The maximum fine would be $500.
The new policy “gives us more of an ability to focus on the violent offenses and the complex offenses,” said Lykos. “When you have finite resources, you have to make decisions, and this decision is a plus all around.”
Critics include Gary Blankinship, who heads the Houston Police Officers’ Union. “It ties the hands of the officers who are making crack-pipe cases against burglars and thieves,” said Blankinship.
It is unclear how many cases will be affected by the change, according to Lykos. Of the more than 46,000 felony cases filed in 2008, more than 13,000 of them were for suspects found with less than a gram of drugs.