Some Misdemeanor Cases May Avoid Trip To Jail

The hallways outside County Court of Law in Nacogdoches were busy Wednesday. This is where the more serious misdemeanor cases are heard. The appearance before the judge usually comes after an in-custody arrest. That's now changing for non violent crimes.

Nacogdoches Police Chief Jim Sevey said, " Essentially what it does is it frees up the officers on the street." Sevey says he's streamlining the criminal justice system. He's allowing officers working Class A and B misdemeanors to skip an arrest and a lengthy booking process. Instead, a summons to court, similar to a citation, will be handed over. There are exceptions, explained Sevey. " Anything involving intoxication, anything involving violence of any sort, any kind of offense where if we don't make an arrest arrest the offense would continue."

Sevey said the summons procedure will free up officers to pursue other duties and help ease jail overcrowding.

Overall, County Attorney Jeff Davis, who handles the cases in court,  is willing to work with the idea.    " I think the effort is being made to try to maximize the efficiency of the process while still protecting public safety, number one, and trying to achieve the goals of law enforcement."

The practice is expected to cut into bail bond business. There's also a concern about violators giving untruthful identities. One safeguard is officers will make a thumbprint of the violator, but the reliability of the print is questioned by some in law enforcement.  No mug shot will be taken either.

Another concern is an increase in no shows. A similar practice attempted by the Department of Public Safety on drivers license violations led to a high percentage of no shows. Sevey says failure to show up to court will have consequences. The chief said, " If an individual fails to show up for their summons a warrant for their arrest will be issued, just like always."

Apparently this is not a threat to many alleged violators. According to the county clerk's office 275 failure to appear warrants have been filed so far this year. Last year there were over 2500 who didn't appear when they were told to.