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Got Marijuana? What You Need to Know About the Dallas “Cite and Release” Rule

First things first, way too many people here in North Texas who have heard about Dallas’ new “Cite and Release” rule for marijuana possession totally misunderstand the rule.  Please spread the word:  DALLAS COUNTY HAS NOT DECRIMINALIZED MARIJUANA POSSESSION.

Here’s what you need to know about marijuana possession in Dallas County today:

The Criminal Charge for Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession Remains the Same

Under this new rule, if a Dallas police officer stops you, your son, your brother, or your girlfriend in the City of Dallas with a small amount of marijuana, then you/they are still facing criminal charges.  The only thing that has really changed here is that things are easier for that police officer.

Cite and release is just an easier “ride” to the courthouse. That’s it.

Down at the Dallas County Commissioners’ Office, their idea is to get Dallas police officers back out patrolling the streets faster by expediting the minor marijuana violation via a ticket process instead of an immediate full arrest procedure down at the county jail.  It does not re-define the crime of marijuana possession at all.


What is Cite and Release?

Starting on December 1, 2018, the City of Dallas will implement a new municipal program for those found in possession of up to 4 ounces of marijuana.  They will be cited with a court summons by the Dallas Police Officer there at the scene.  They are not taken to jail.  (The marijuana is confiscated, of course.)

Right now, this applies only to the City of Dallas proper.  It does not apply to all of Dallas County.  Cite and Release is a Dallas, Texas, program.  Other cities within Dallas County have their own ways of doing things.  If they want to do “cite and release” then they have to approve it for their municipality.

Texas municipalities are allowed to implement these programs under a state statute passed back in 2007. It’s a growing trend.  Austin and San Antonio are two other examples of municipalities with marijuana cite and release programs.

The Impact of Cite and Release on Your Future

Sounds like a good thing, right?  Sure.  But for some folks, not getting arrested could actually hurt them in the long run.

How?  Their ability to get their record expunged may be changed.  It may be much harder to get that marijuana possession charge off the books in the future, should they want to “erase” it.

Why?  Article 55.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure is the state law which enables expunctions.  Key here: this law only applies to those who have been arrested.

What about Your Criminal Record?

Anytime you are arrested, it gets put into the public record.  Criminal charges need not end up as convictions to impact your future.  That’s why many people come to criminal defense lawyers.  It’s not because they are being investigated for a crime or because they have been arrested and are facing jail time, but because their past criminal history is hurting their life today.

There are state laws that allow people to change their criminal records.  People can get things “expunged” from them.  This can be very important for those who are applying for a new job, seeking a scholarship, wanting to join the armed forces, etc.  Drug crimes are an especially big deal here – lots of employers, for instance, might not want to hire someone with a past drug charge on their record.

For more on expungement, check out:

Texas Expunction Statute and Arrests

So, how does this work with “Cite and Release” in Dallas?  Well, if you are facing a misdemeanor it’s usually easy to expunge — if there’s an arrest and deferred adjudication. (This is pretty common for these small marijuana possession scenarios.)

However, the Texas Expunction Statute (Tex. Art. 55.01) only applies to “arrests.”  So, does this mean the Texas Expunction Law will not work for those who are “cited and released” by the Dallas Police?

“Submission to Authority” and Expunction

Texas courts have addressed this issue in some manner by including any “submission to authority.”   Judges have ruled that if you have submitted to the state’s authority, then you can be covered in a manner similar to those formally arrested. This case law defines a submission to authority as making an appearance in a court in front of a judge.

But as a criminal defense lawyer here in Dallas County, I know firsthand that it’s has been getting much more difficult to get expunction in misdemeanor cases.

In fact, in my opinion, the Texas Legislature may need to return to Texas Penal Code article 55.01 for amendment, updating it to address this issue.

Bottom Line:  Submission to Authority and Expunction

If you are stopped by the police here in Dallas and they discover a small amount of marijuana in your possession next year, under “Cite and Release” you’re not going to be arrested.  You’ll get a piece of paper from the officer, he or she will take your marijuana, and you’ll be free to do as you wish at that time.  No being taken down to jail.

You’ll still have to appear before the court at the date and time given on the paperwork.  You are still facing a marijuana possession misdemeanor charge.  There has not been any decriminalization here.

And when you want to expunge that event, you may have a big problem legally because you will have to convince the judge at your expunction hearing that you did indeed “submit to the court’s authority” in order to have the marijuana charge expunged.

Right now, there’s some case law which equivocates certain types of “submission to authority” to arrest. But that can be very tricky to argue.  It may be better to just get arrested and arraigned than have to fight at an expunction hearing about whether you submitted to the court’s authority if the case isn’t filed or gets dismissed.


For more information, check out our web resources, read Michael Lowe’s Case Results, and read his in-depth article, “SECOND CHANCES: HOW TO GET RID OF YOUR TEXAS CRIMINAL RECORD.”



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