WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The Williamson County Attorney’s office secured a $65,000 grant to pilot the “Cite and Release” program next year.
If you’re caught with an invalid drivers license or marijuana under two ounces, instead of going straight to jail, you’ll get fingerprinted and have to go to a processing center. That is where you’ll also get your court date.
“What we’re doing is replacing that jail stay with the processing center; go there, get everything you would’ve gotten information-wise from the jail,” explains Williamson County Attorney Dee Hobbs. “At that point, everything is the identical process that it is now.”
Hobbs says that means offenders would still face the same type of penalties, like jail time and fines if they’re found guilty.
The Round Rock Police Department will be the first Williamson County agency to test out the program. They’re hoping it will help them keep more officers on the streets.
“So if they have a high priority call with a violent offender or citizen in distress, they have all the resources on duty at that time, to go and respond to that, and we can handle these non-violent offenders through the court system as it always was intend ended,” said Hobbs.
The goal is to also reduce jail population, which taxpayers fund. The Williamson County Jail can currently hold 1,104 inmates; however they would need to increase staffing to actually house that many inmates.
“Do we really need to be putting our people in jail if they’ve got a suspended license? As a resident of Williamson County, I’m far more concerned about our serious criminal offenses and those defendants being held in jail,” said Justice of the Peace for Precinct 3, Judge Bill Gravell.
The county hopes to have the program running by January, but they still have to get fingerprint scanners to use on the side of the road and at the processing center. A definite location has not been picked yet for the processing center, how the county is considering the Williamson County Justice Center, where court is held.
In 2014, Williamson County saw 1,781 cases of possession of marijuana under two ounces, and 1,806 cases of driving with an invalid license. In 2015, there were 1,510 cases of possession of marijuana under two ounces, and 1,164 cases of driving with an invalid license.