Harris County DA: 1st time pot offenders to be offered intervention program

Thursday, November 5, 2015
Program urged in pot offenses
Harris County DA Devon Anderson is pushing the use of a program for first-time misdemeanor pot offenders

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Will Bailey knew he made a mistake. He says he was about 18 years old when he was pulled over and busted for having marijuana on him. Back then, it did not phase him as much.

Bailey said, "We ended up having time served 3 days in jail. Fines and stuff."

But, now that criminal charge on Bailey's permanent record is costing him jobs that he really needs to support his family.

Describing past experiences, Bailey complained that, "A lot of companies will work with you, but most of them won't. They don't wanna see anything on your record, they say no felonies. But, misdemeanors still count just as well as felonies."

Pretty soon, the way police officers treat misdemeanor marijuana cases will change. All first time offenders in Harris County, caught with zero to two ounces of pot and have never been in trouble with the law before can avoid jail time by attending a first chance intervention program.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said in a press conference today, "If you stay out of trouble and do what you are supposed to do, at the end of the day, that case will not be filed against you."

The new requirement could free up jail space, court time and police officers could concentrate on more serious crimes on the street. The Harris County District Attorney's Office started the program last October. Stats show more than 1500 people arrested wiped their records clean by attending the program.

Anderson added, "If they did what they were supposed to do they would never go to court, never go to jail. So this is completely different than I know of going on in Texas."