HPD statement: Changes in trace/residue cases

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.

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