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Some misdemeanor suspects will no longer go to jail under new Houston program

The program will allow officers to charge a person with misdemeanors by issuing citations instead of taking a person to jail.

HOUSTON — Suspects accused of some misdemeanors in Houston will soon be released rather than taken to jail. 

According to HPD, the Cite and Release program will allow officers to charge a person with certain class A or B misdemeanors by issuing a citation instead of taking the person to jail.

This program has been implemented in other cities to reduce the jail population and reduce response times for officers.

"This is equivalent of being given a second chance on the spot as long as the offender meets the requirement," said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. 

Under the program, the following have been listed as offenses permitting a citation in substitution of an arrest:

  • Possession of Substance in Penalty Group 2 -- meaning possession less than 4 ounces 
  • Criminal Mischief -- if damage is between $100 to $750
  • Graffiti -- if damage is between $100 to $2,500
  • Theft -- if stolen property is between $100 to $750 
  • Theft of Service -- if value of service is between $100 to $750 
  • Contraband in a Correctional Facility (Class B) 
  • Driving While License Invalid


  1. Officers must positively identify the suspect and check for warrants and criminal history. 
  2. As with all charges, officers must consult with the District Attorney’s Office to discuss probable cause. The eligibility for the Cite & Release Program will also be discussed. 
  3. Officers will present the defendant with the opportunity to participate in the Cite & Release Program, if the offense permits. If the suspect agrees to participate in the program, the suspect will sign the citation as a promise to appear in court. The officer will then issue the citation.
  4. Lastly, the suspect will be released from custody, an offense report will be completed, and charges will be filed.


Not everyone will be eligible to participate in HPD's Cite and Release program. The following are listed as disqualifications:

  1. Suspect is to be charged with Misdemeanor Possession of Marijuana (handled through Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program) 
  2. Suspect is not a resident of Harris County 
  3. Suspect is younger than 17 years of age 
  4. Suspect demands immediate appearance before a magistrate (program is voluntary) 
  5. Suspect has outstanding warrants 
  6. Safety (to self or others) is jeopardized by their release 
  7. Suspect is in need of immediate medical attention 
  8. Suspect is combative. 
  9. Suspect refuses to sign Cite and Release Citation. 
  10. If the officer cannot positively ID the suspect (by government identification, AFIS or other reasonable means). 
  11. If non-qualifying Cite and Release charges are also filed. 
  12. There is reason to believe the suspect would not appear in court. The basis for this determination shall be specifically stated in the offense report (e.g. suspect has a history of capias pro fines and/or bond forfeiture). 
  13. If the suspect's driver's license is invalid and the suspect is the at-fault driver in the crash.  
  14. Upon discussion with the ADA in Intake, if the charge is enhanced due to a prior conviction. 
  15. Suspect is on parole for any crime.