Jason E. Miller
13831 Northwest Fwy Suite 640
Houston, TX 77040
October 6, 2014
Honorable Devon Anderson
Harris County District Attorney
1201 Franklin Street
Houston, TX 77002
Dear Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson,
We appreciate the new approach the Harris County District Attorney’s Office has taken on Class B misdemeanor marijuana offenses. The aim of your pilot program to allow first-time offenders the chance to avoid jail time and a criminal record, the First Chance Intervention Program, is commendable.
The signatories of this letter believe that marijuana prohibition has been a failure. We believe that responsible adults should never be arrested or imprisoned for possessing cannabis. We therefore applaud any policy change that reduces the number of people facing jail time and a criminal record.
Upon our review of the program fact sheet, we are deeply concerned over some of the specifics that remain unclear. We ask the following questions relating to the operation and legality of the program, and we would greatly value your assistance in helping us understand these details.
For those accused of a first-time Class B misdemeanor marijuana possession offense, who are deemed eligible for the program:
Is the person being arrested? (The fact sheet uses the word “detained” when referring to an encounter with HPD or HCSO and uses the word “arrested” when referring to an encounter with any other law enforcement agency)
If an individual is detained by HPD or HCSO, and then transported to a police station, does this constitute an arrest or an investigative detention?
When the person is taken to the substation to be identified and fingerprinted, and then offered the First Chance Intervention Program, how does the individual agree to the program? By signing a document? If a document has to be signed, is the person admitting guilt or giving up any of their rights? If they sign an agreement or answer questions in order to assess eligibility for the program, are they making any statements that can be used against them at some later date? Can the individual have an attorney present at the substation prior to entering into any agreement and still participate in the program?
If the person is detained but not arrested by HPD or HCSO, is the visit to the substation voluntary? Will the person be allowed to drive his or her own vehicle to the station? Will the person’s vehicle be impounded? Will the person be read the Miranda warning and afforded due process rights?
If arrested or detained by HPD or HCSO and transported to the station, will there be a recording in a log of that arrest? A mugshot? Will any documents be created in that process? If so, are they public record?
Will criminal charges ever be filed against an accused person who is eligible for the program, agrees to participate, and completes the program? If not, are there records relating to an arrest, or any other record that will need to be expunged?
Will any of Harris County’s other 50+ law enforcement agencies (other than HPD and HCSO) be utilizing the program? (The fact sheet states, “Under this pilot program, offenders arrested by an agency other than the HPD or the HCSO will be sent to jail and offered the program in Court.”)
If avoiding jail is part of the program, how can someone be offered the same program in Court after already being sent to jail?
If avoiding criminal charges is part of the program, how can someone be offered the same program at a Court appearance in which they are answering to a criminal charge?
How much of a police officer’s total time is estimated to be occupied throughout the process of detaining the accused person, transporting them to a police substation, identifying, fingerprinting, offering them the program, filing any necessary reports, and releasing them from custody?
How many offenders (by your estimate) will be brought into a police station or substation on a daily basis? Will they be a distraction or otherwise jeopardize the productivity of our law enforcement officials fulfilling their duties?
Will people be treated equally across all of Harris County? Or will they be treated differently based on where in the county they are located or which law enforcement agency they encounter?
Your response to these questions will allow us to thoroughly evaluate the program, provide our feedback and educate the public.
Our greatest concern is that only two agencies will be utilizing the program, which means the people of Harris County may not be treated equally under the law. We ask that your office expand this program to include every law enforcement jurisdiction within Harris County effective immediately.
The signatories of this letter are pleased that your office has taken on this issue. We look forward to working with you in the future on any steps within the purview of your office toward sensible public policy on cannabis.
Jason E. Miller
Precinct 902 Chairman – Harris County Republican Party
Executive Director – Houston NORML
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
Precinct 315 Chair – Harris County Republican Party
Board of Directors – Houston Downtown Pachyderm Club
Executive Director – RAMP
Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition
Precinct 1024 Chairman – Harris County Republican Party
President – Houston Young Republicans
Local Government Committee SD18 – Harris County Republican Party
Secretary – Katy Libertea
Katy Regional Director – Houston NORML
Precinct 034 Chairman – Harris County Republican Party
Communications Director – Houston Young Republicans
Matthew G. Howerton
Chairman – Houston Republican Liberty Caucus
Precinct 442 Chairman – Harris County Republican Party
Chairman – Texas Republican Liberty Caucus
Vice-Chairman – Harris County Republican Party Senate District 11
Precinct 349 Chairman
The above message was disseminated via email and fax to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office on October 6, 2014 at 4:20pm
Additional signatories – added 10/7/2014
Local Government Committee SD13 – Harris County Republican Party
Precinct 256 Chairman
Executive Director – Armed Citizen Project
Precinct 178 Chairman – Harris County Republican Party
Southeast TX Regional Director – Republican Liberty Caucus
Christina Duong Davis
Precinct 257 Chair – Harris County Republican Party