Statement on Trace / Residue Cases

December 9, 2009 - The Houston Police Department recently engaged in a dialogue with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office regarding ways in which the administration of justice could be improved. As a result, the District Attorney’s office will be implementing a new policy regarding the filing of possession of trace/residue cases.

The new policy, as outlined by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, states that effective January 1, 2010, the treatment of cases involving possession of a controlled substance (Penalty Groups 1 and 2), whether a crack pipe with residue or any amount of trace evidence, will NOT be filed as a state jail felony when the weight of the retained controlled substance is less than .01 grams. No charge will be accepted if the amount of controlled substance does not meet the threshold level of .01 grams. However, it should be noted that Police Officers will still have probable cause to arrest and search anyone whom they have determined is in possession of a controlled substance, no matter how small the quantity.

District Attorney Pat Lykos was receptive to concerns of the Houston Police Department that this new policy could limit the number of tools available for crime prevention. Similarly, the issue was raised that trace cases may be the only means of law enforcement in some cases. To illustrate, drug addicts may become so addicted to the drug that they engage in thefts, burglaries, prostitution, and other crimes in an effort to support their habit. By arresting a suspect for a small amount of crack cocaine, HPD may be preventing that suspect from committing a burglary later, for example.

In an effort to verify the usefulness of these types of cases as an effective means of crime prevention and law enforcement, District Attorney Lykos has agreed to engage in a six month study to determine how often these suspects re-offend and how often other charges are filed. The policy will then be re-evaluated at the conclusion of the study to determine whether it furthers our mutual law enforcement goals.

In addition, the Houston Police Department and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office will continue to work together on legislation to increase drug rehabilitation programs for those who are arrested for minor drug-related offenses and, if necessary, on legislation to address trace/residue cases.

For additional information, please contact the HPD Public Affairs Division at 713-308-3200 .

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