Although Texas is not among the states that have legalized marijuana, the Travis County Commissioners Court has recognized the need to limit jail penalties for low-risk marijuana offenders. All members of the court approved the creation of a drug diversion class for people charged with possessing no more than 2 ounces of marijuana.
The four-hour class would present an alternative to jailing people and imposing a criminal conviction that would limit their chances at future employment. One county judge said that the program would allow law enforcement and prosecutors to apply their attention to more serious matters. She wanted jail space to be used for people who actually posed a danger to the community.
The class requires payment of a $45 fee, which provides an affordable alternative to someone who would otherwise be trying to expunge a criminal conviction at great personal expense. A county commissioner said that the new program offered people a way to avoid being marked as a criminal for life over an activity that is legal in many parts of the country.
When law enforcement issues drug charges, the targets might not be aware of options to limit penalties within the criminal justice system. Legal representation, however, could inform them about strategies for reducing charges or getting a case dismissed. An attorney could evaluate the evidence and the actions of law enforcement in an effort to find weaknesses in the prosecutor's case. In situations when police violated the defendant's rights, such as with an unlawful search and seizure, an attorney might succeed in having the evidence excluded from trial, which could result in a dismissal.