New bill would allow officers to write citations for misdemeanor offenses

SB154 would mean people wouldn't have to go to jail for misdemeanor offenses, but would be given a citation instead.

Posted: Mar 8, 2018 4:23 PM
Updated: Mar 8, 2018 7:35 PM

A bill making it's way through the house would give law enforcement officers the option of not taking people to jail for misdemeanor offenses.

Senate Bill 154, also known as the Citation in Lieu of Arrest Bill, would give officers the option of writing citations for misdemeanor offenses like minor in possession of alcohol, small amounts of marijuana, shoplifting, and public intoxication, rather than taking someone to jail.

Shoals Senator Tim Melson (R) sponsored the bill in the Senate, where it passed unanimously. The bill now goes to the house where it is sponsored by Tuscaloosa Representative Chris England (D).

Lauderdale County Commissioner and Florence Police Lt. Brad Holmes helped work on this piece of legislation. Holmes said this bill would allow officers to get back on the streets faster.

"Normally on an arrest we spend anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour in a detention facility," said Holmes. "So five minutes of writing a citation versus an hour inside of a detention facility, I think the tax payers get a better bang for their buck by having officers patrolling neighborhoods rather than them tied up on misdemeanor offenses."

Holmes told WAAY 31 this would also free up space in local jails.

"When we look at jail overcrowding which is an issue at municipalities across the state, I think it's something that can help with that," said Holmes.

If a citation were written, offenders would still have to pay the same amount in fees.

"The individual is still held accountable. The individual still has to appear before a judge, or magistrate for court. The process is still the same were just cutting out the detention part of it to lessen the amount of people in our jails," said Holmes.

People who are suspects in domestic violence calls, or get pulled over for a DUI will still go to jail, according to Holmes. The bill would only allow citations to be written for minor misdemeanor offenses.

"I also want to stress that this is not something that were mandating on law enforcement. This is simply an option. The bill is very specific, that in an officers opinion, whatever the offense is rises to the level of where public safety is a concern, then the individual will still go to jail," said Holmes.

Some Florence citizens told us they think the bill is a good idea.

"Our police department would have more time to arrest people who are doing worse things than actually having a bit of marijuana," said Lauren Coggin.

If you are only written a citation and not taken to jail, you won't have a mugshot out in the public either. University of North Alabama student Logan Calvert said he believes the bill is a great idea as well.

"It could save a ton of paper work and get officers back on the streets to help the real problems. It would also keep a lot of people from doing those small things by a citation besides having to carry them all the way to jail," said Calvert.

SB 154 will now go to the House of Representatives for a vote. If it becomes law, local municipalities would still need to pass an ordinance to give officers the authority to write citations for misdemeanor offenses.

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