For Immediate Release: April 21, 2020
Contact: Marie McIntosh, media [at] ilrc.org
SAN MARCOS—After sustained local activism by criminal justice reform advocates, the City Council of San Marcos passed a cite and release ordinance in a 4 to 3 vote late in the evening of April 21. The ordinance, similar to a resolution passed in Austin in 2018, directs the San Marcos Police Department to issue citations for low-level offenses like possession of small quantities of marijuana—a leading cause of arrest in Hays County in 2018—and to issue quarterly reports to increase data transparency and ensure compliance with the ordinance.
The city’s policy is based on a state law passed in 2007 which allows officers to issue citations, instead of arrest, for certain low-level offenses, including offenses punishable by fine only, as well as some Class A and B misdemeanors. City Council voted to limit that list of eligible offenses, thereby excluding some offenses in the state statute. The cite and release ordinance seeks to eliminate discretionary arrests and decrease racial disparities in policing. It goes into effect on May 31, 2020.
The ordinance, originally authored by Texas-based attorney Anita Gupta of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, is among the first of its kind in the state. After data emerged showing San Marcos police officers issued citations in only 13 percent of eligible instances in 2018 and 23 percent in 2019, and significant racial disparities existed among those arrested, local community-based organization, Mano Amiga, and other community members urged City Council to take immediate action.
Said Anita Gupta, Staff Attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center:
“Arrests for low-level offenses harm our communities and unnecessarily disrupt the daily lives of San Marcos residents, often causing great hardship to families and students. This citywide ordinance is a move towards decriminalizing overpoliced communities of color, immigrants, and other marginalized populations.
This ordinance is especially important during this difficult time. All around the state, we’ve already seen cases of COVID-19 in jails and prisons where social distancing is impossible. For the safety and best interest of our community members, it’s critical that citations be issued whenever possible. Funneling vulnerable community members into incarceration right now endangers more lives - it is inhumane.
While we are disappointed that last minute amendments were made to limit the eligible offenses, we applaud this step toward much-needed meaningful reform. We look forward to working with the police department on implementation.”
The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) is a national nonprofit that works with immigrants, community organizations, legal professionals, and policy makers to build a democratic society that values diversity and the rights of all people. Through community education programs, legal training & technical assistance, and policy development & advocacy, the ILRC works to protect and defend the fundamental rights of immigrant families and communities.