Some Drug Offenders Still Can't Escape Jail Time in Amarillo

Certain offenders no longer have to go to jail under Texas law, but they will if Amarillo police catch them.

APD has not set up a system to process misdemeanor citations and has no plans to do so.   That's what Sergeant Randy TenBrink tells NewsChannel 10.  A state law now in effect for nearly four months means police don't have to arrest marijuana offenders for possessing fewer than four ounces of the drug.

But we've learned the Amarillo Police Department is one of many law enforcement agencies that choose to arrest offenders instead of hand them a citation. TenBrink says the law designed to ease jail overcrowding actually offers few advantages for Amarillo police.

"We find that if you've got to do all that paperwork anyway you may as well book that person in jail. It doesn't save us that much time," says TenBrink.  He also notes there's a potential downside to relying on citations. "It does appear to decriminalize that when people think well I'm just gonna get a ticket over here or I'm gonna go to jail."

The Potter and Randall County Sheriffs' Offices report they are both writing citations and making arrests for those misdemeanor crimes since the law went into effect September first. For those agencies, each officer decides whether to issue a citation or make an arrest for low level marijuana possession.