Hays County Announces Cite and Divert program
On July 8, 2020, Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler and Hays County District Attorney Wes Mau met with the local law enforcement heads of San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, and Texas State University police departments and agreed to implement a new Cite and Divert program.
This program will give law enforcement officers an additional option when dealing with criminal cases. Cite and Divert had been discussed a year ago but with current issues in inmate populations and COVID-19 concerns, it was decided by the law enforcement administrators to move forward with this program with an anticipated launch on September 1, 2020.
What is “cite and divert”?
According to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, there are several offenses which allow a police officer, within his/her discretion, to issue a citation to a person rather than arrest them; this is commonly known as “Cite and Release.” Currently, those who are cited and released avoid arrest but still have criminal cases filed.
The Cite and Divert Program add an additional diversion aspect to the more commonly known cite and release program, giving people who qualify for the program a chance to avoid having the offense ever filed in court and becoming part of their criminal record.
Rather than appearing before a magistrate, eligible persons will have an opportunity to meet with a prosecutor from the Hays County Criminal District Attorney’s Office who may determine that a course of diversion is most appropriate.
Once the person satisfies the requirements determined by the prosecutor, the program successfully concludes, and their record remains clear of that offense.
What is the difference between “cite and release” and “cite and divert”?
In the more commonly known cite and release program, rather than being arrested at the time of the offense, a person is issued a citation with a notice to appear at the jail on a later date. At that time, they go through the booking process, including being fingerprinted and providing a booking photograph.
The only benefit to cite and release is that the arrest is deferred to a later date. The criminal case will still proceed as normal, meaning that the person will still have to get a lawyer, attend court dates and pay court costs, and other fines. Furthermore, even if they get their case dismissed, they must go through the expunction process to possibly have the offense removed from their record.
The major benefit to the Cite and Divert Program is that it provides an opportunity to stay out of the criminal justice system and keep the criminal record clean. Rather than going to jail and having a case filed, a person will meet with a prosecutor from the Criminal District Attorney’s Office who may recommend an appropriate course of diversion.
Plans have also been made to provide defense counsel at this stage in the process. Diversion can include educational courses, community service, or paying restitution, all of which are less expensive and less time consuming than going through the more formalized judicial process.
What type of cases can be diverted?
Low-level misdemeanor cases will be eligible for diversion. Some of these misdemeanor offenses that would be part of this program include marijuana possession, misdemeanor theft, driving with an invalid license, and criminal mischief. This list is not inclusive and other misdemeanors could fall under this program.
Sheriff Gary Cutler expressed his excitement to implement Cite and Divert as soon as possible and work alongside various other County offices to ensure the program’s success.