Derrell Creeks smiles almost like he won the lottery.
He's happy because he avoided a trip to jail last month. Creeks was the first to be cited and released under a new program for misdemeanor marijuana possession in Dallas.
“I was like, 'Don't y’all have some kind of program to just write me a ticket or something?'” he told WFAA.
Dallas started its cite and release program Dec. 1. Those caught with less than four ounces of marijuana are cited, fingerprinted, their marijuana confiscated and released. The first batch of “cite and release” defendants are scheduled to have their first appearance in court Feb. 21.
WFAA identified 17 cite and release cases that filed with the courts thus far. They’re on average 23 years old. Ten were males with Hispanic-sounding surnames. Five were black males. Two were females -- one white, one black. The youngest was 17.
The racial breakdown troubles Dallas City Councilmember Philip Kingston.
“Well, again, we see the racial disparity,” said Kingston, who was the council's most vocal proponent of cite and release. “A sample size of 17 isn’t huge, but if only one is white, that’s not ok in a city that is plurality white.”
He'd be just as happy to have been told there had been no cite and release cases, particularly given Dallas police's manpower shortage.
“Ignore it,” he said. “We don’t enforce jaywalking because it’s a waste of time, and it doesn’t provide a public safety benefit. In general, we don’t have the police resources to waste time on low-level marijuana possession.”
Creeks is all for cite and release. He has two prior misdemeanor marijuana convictions – one in 2008 and another in 2013.
When he was cited and released last month, he had a very small amount of marijuana in his pocket. He was “loitering” in an empty parking lot in Oak Cliff when police approached him and asked if he had anything illegal in his pockets. Creeks consented to a search, and police found the marijuana.
He said police detained him for about 30 minutes before being released. “It's better than going to jail,” he said.
The Dallas County District’s Attorney’s office recently expanded their pretrial diversion program to include all misdemeanor marijuana offenses, regardless of criminal history.