Criminal Justice

NOPD can now write tickets for simple pot possession

By Matt Davis, The Lens staff writer

The City Council voted unanimously this morning to approve four ordinances aimed at reducing the number of people arrested for minor crimes.

Instead of an arrest on a state charge, most offenders will now get a ticket ordering them to municipal court on four specific crimes:

  • * Simple possession of marijuana
  • * Interfering with a law enforcement investigation
  • * Flight from an officer
  • * Prostitution

“These ordinances will contribute significantly to the city’s efforts to create greater efficiency in our criminal justice systems,” said Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who has led the effort to get the ordinances approved.

Guidry credited the Criminal Justice Leadership Alliance, a project established by the Vera Institute of Justice New Orleans, with working with various law enforcement agencies to develop consensus.

Guidry also is working with Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Criminal Justice Working Group to attempt to make a recommendation on the size of a new jail, and this morning’s ordinances will help reduce jail population.

“We also don’t have the problem of people being thrown in jail for petty offenses and disrupting their jobs, their families,” Guidry said.

The ordinances were co-sponsored by Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson, and Councilman Jon Johnson.

“The police power that we spare by giving people tickets instead of taking them to jail means the officers can focus on felonies,” Clarkson said. “It’s a win-win-win-win.”

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  • Allie

    It’s about time. And it should extend to all offenders…not just first time. This is a step in the right direction.

  • steve

    So, is offering tickets for these things an option, or a mandate for the police? If it’s an option, I can’t even imagine the potential problems that might arise with who gets tickets and who doesn’t.

  • Matt Davis

    @Steve it’s optional. One of the things Clarkson kept trumpeting was that the ordinances “maintain officer discretion.” So you’re right, it will be interesting to look at who got tickets and who got a trip to jail, in six months’ time. Thanks for the reporting idea!

  • A step in the right direction, I think. Thanks for your continuing coverage.

  • steve

    It certainly has the potential to change arrests and jail/prison sentences. And it’s also meaningful in what it symbolizes regarding the (what I think is) eventual downfall of the war on drugs. I’m just curious about how it will actually look when put into practice, and whether there will be any real changes.

  • You guys are absolutely right. Let’s let everyone go that the police catch smoking pot and write them a summons (Boy, I guess the broken window theory of law enforcement went by the wayside – I guess NOLA will have a crappy quality of life in the City when you have all of these morons not stopping for the police and fleeing, driving with no insurance, and never paying their traffic tickets). If someone did not show up for court for unpaid traffic tickets and the police catch them, they will write a summons instead of arresting them and bringing them to jail (Can we say property taxes go up because the City cannot get their traffic tickets paid by those that do not show up in court?). If someone runs from the police and wipes out a family along the way, no big deal, the police will write them a summons (If it is your family that gets wiped out, you better not go crying to the police, after all we’re trying to make sure our jails remain empty). If the police catch you driving without insurance, they will let you go instead of towing your vehicle; they will let the uninsured go and possibly slam into your car, requiring your insurance company to pay your claim and all of our rates will go up. While we’re at it, let’s make everything easy and basically state there is no law in Orleans Parish, that you can rape, rob, and kill your way through the City all you want without fear of justice. In fact, if the police shoot a looter that has an extensive criminal record, we’ll convict the cop in Federal Court and throw away the key (this is good, NOPD will really be motivated the next time the hurricanes come around to protect your lives and property the next time the mob attacks your neighborhood). Let’s let murderers off with prison sentences of 2-6 years at a time and see if that provides any type of deterrent. Absolutely outstanding. This is why people are selling their homes to leave the City. We cater to the criminal element in Orleans Parish. If you crave anarchy, this is the place for you.

  • steve

    Not completely sure how to take that comment, but nice job combining every possible stereotype with some serious slippery slopes into a worst case, doomsday scenario. You should spend some time in the courts and see if these stereotypes are actually supported.

    The bottom line is that arresting most of the people who commit these things does nothing to prevent future crime (recidivism rates at around 70%,), and is a huge waste of money (something any taxpayer should care about). It costs alot to enforce, arrest, adjudicate, and incarcerate people on these charges, and they are a bulk of those in the courts (not the boogie man murderer who only gets 2-6 years, that’s a conservative talking point from the 90s). Plus, everyone knows that if you have a good lawyer you’re more likely to get off. That’s one of the reasons the prison population is mostly poor (and because much of the federal money to fight a 30 year war on drugs went to cities, it’s predominantly black and hispanic as well). There are lots of reasons to change these policies, including their unfairness and cost to taxpayers, as well as the fact that they don’t do anything. There might be some reasons to support them, but I don’t know of any that make any sense or aren’t mostly ideological, including the fear that all of a sudden crime will spike. It just doesn’t happen that way.

    And, I’m selling my home and might leave the city because of the schools. If you can’t afford private and you’re kid doesn’t test into one of the good charters, you’re screwed. Quality of schools, especially elementary, are an important factor (not the only) in reducing violent crime, but you have to be patient, the effects won’t happen over night. Kids got to grow up first.