Without a Trace

The rumor that I mentioned on October 30th, that the DA’s office was going to stop accepting charges on trace controlled-substance cases, has been verified. Prosecutors were notified today by email that starting January 1st the Harris County DA’s Office was going to stop filing possession cases on people in possession of less than .01 grams of a controlled substance.

This is terrible news—aside from cutting into criminal-defense lawyers’ work, it will allow the DA’s Office to dedicate much more of its resources to the cases of people who are actually a danger to others.

9 Comments

  1. Do you mean to say that it is now a *selective* war on drugs? And what will we do with the one-shot diversionary programs? Do we actually start using them for *REAL* criminal charges?

    *SIGH* Now I really will have to rethink my whole business model… between this, AVVO and self-congratulatory blogging, what’s a lawyer to do to generate business? (all said tongue-in-cheek)

  2. Ask yourself various questions when typing up the refusal for the charges:
    What did they have before they had a “trace”….they had a useable amount!
    Why did the officer encounter the person being charged….PROBABLY BECAUSE HE USED THAT AMOUNT
    Was he or she dangerous to others prior to or after using? Prior to shows the stupidity and will to not only screw their own body up but to commit a felony without regard for what anyone else thinks…After just proves they’re stupid.

    A felony is a felony…..Pregnant is pregnant….dead is dead…..you either stopped at the light OR YOU DIDN’T!

  3. Outstanding decision. I wonder how many citizens are currently in the Harris County jail on crack pipe cases. I have an opinion on why this should have been done from the start, but I wonder what the DA’s reasoning was. I’ll bet it had more to do with things like crime lab technicians having to testify than doing justice.

  4. Okay, I’ll remove all doubt.

    The idea, as I understand it, is that empty-but-used crack pipe possession will no longer lead to criminal charges for the traces of crack.

    But what’s the difference, other than the amount, in prosecuting somebody who is in possession of a crack pipe and a little bit of crack that he/she hasn’t gotten around to smoking, yet? I know it matters a lot to the guy who has smoked his, but if it makes sense to prosecute somebody for being a crack user (with the possession of crack being the proof of it), doesn’t it make just as much sense to prosecute the person who has the minescule amount? The idea, as I understand it, is that by imprisoning or putting on probation the person who uses the stuff, they won’t go out and steal stuff/rob people to get more, after all; from the POV of folks who believe in that theory, why not prosecute the crack pipe guy, too?

    As I doubt will be a surprise to you, I’d rather decriminalize the whole thing, not because I think crack use is fine and dandy, but because I think the whole War on Some Drugs is horrible, on balance, for society, and I don’t particularly buy the theory in the first place. (Other than the notion that, sure, if you put a guy in a cage, he won’t be able to get out of the cage and get his crack, and will likely be prevented from getting a lot of it shipped in. Me, I’d just rather we gave him his damn crack as long as he didn’t beat up on folks and such, but that’s another issue.)

    1. Well, if what you’re trying to do is prosecute someone for being a crack user, why not just criminalize presence of crack metabolites in urine? Then you can get all those crack users without having to go to the trouble of planting drugs on them, etc. You’ll need some pretext and maybe the magistrate of the day, but that shouldn’t be that tough to do.

      1. Well, actually: yeah. Again: I’m not saying that it makes sense to put people in cages for being crack users, at all, but, if it does, a law where sufficient evidence that somebody is results in a warrant for a urine test seems to me to be a lot less invasive than the forced blood draws for those suspected of DUI/DWI. The guy’s gotta go sometime, after all.

    2. The law requires “knowing” possession of a controlled substance. The crack smoker, if he knew there was crack in the crack pipe under the seat of his car, would find a way to smoke it; the non-crack-smoker, if he knew there was crack in the glass pipe under the seat of his car, would dispose of it.

      The first problem with Paul’s theory is that when the guy is arrested for having a crack pipe under the seat of his car (how lots and lots of trace cases get started), we have very little idea which guy we are dealing with, and we try to avoid convicting people of felonies for “probably”—even in all caps.

      The second problem with Paul’s theory is that we try to avoid convicting people of felonies for being stupid.

  5. “it will allow the DA’s Office to dedicate much more of its resources to the cases of people who [] are actually a danger to others.”

    such as the .01, .02, and .03 gram possessors!

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