Pat Lykos has gotten herself back in the news today with the announcement of her new policy of the Office no longer filing crack pipe "residue" cases. As the Chronicle article points out, the move is being met with polar opposite reviews from police officers and defense attorneys.
For those of you unfamiliar with the lingo, a crack pipe residue case is typically called a "trace case" by most criminal lawyers. The typical scenario is that a person is arrested for a Class C offense (in the poorer neighborhoods, that's usually a jaywalking, walking in the street where a sidewalk is provided, or a bicycling without a headlight). Once a patrol officer arrests the Class C scofflaw, the "search incident to arrest" will often times recover a crack pipe with no crack rock in it. However, a quick test with a field kit will show that the pipe tests positive for cocaine residue and voila, we have felony charges.
The reality of the situation is that the crack pipe once held a perfectly solid crack rock, but now it's gone. The way the statute reads allows for any amount of cocaine be filed as a State Jail Felony. In other counties, however, the cases can be disposed of with a Class C Possession of Drug Paraphernalia plea. In Harris County, the cases were often handled with 12.44(a) Time, which is a felony conviction punished with misdemeanor jail time.
The police are not happy with Lykos' new policy, and I understand why. Police Departments like to utilize the statistics of Felony Arrests, and if the D.A.'s Office isn't going to let them count crack pipe residue cases anymore, then those stats are about to take a severe dip. That ain't going to make the upper echelons happy, if you ask me.
My thoughts on Lykos' policy is that this was probably a good move, though.
Yes, you read that correctly. I agree with Lykos on this particular issue.
Filing crack pipe cases are a tremendous use of State resources that could be better expended on more serious cases.
And it isn't as if she is de-criminalizing drugs. The option will still remain for a police officer to file a Class C violation on a crack pipe holder and they will still have the power to take that person into custody (if they so choose). They just aren't going to get their felony arrest stat and the accused isn't going to spend the next several months in jail.
And the prosecutors at the D.A.'s Office can spend more of their over-worked time focusing on more serious cases.
Now I'm wondering what the Office is going to do with all the residue cases that are currently pending. I'm hoping that a lot of us are going to be getting our Class C offers immediately and we can get some of these folks home for Christmas.