Bill seeks to lower penalties in some drug cases

A state representative is pushing a bill that would reduce punishments for some drug cases.

House Bill 2044 would give many people caught with small amounts of cocaine and other drugs lower charges and keep them out of jail.

Texas State Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) wrote the bill to reduce possession of less than one gram from a state jail felony to a Class A misdemeanor.

If passed, it's estimated that the law could save the state millions of dollars in court fees and jail costs.

Those who would be affected by the law would be offenders who sell or make drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines and are caught with under one gram.

Just last year, more than 7,000 people went to state jail for this charge.

Advocates for the bill say it would save money and keep minor offenders out of jail.

But Hidalgo District Attorney Rene Guerra said it sends the wrong message.

"You're going to send out the wrong message because it TMs going to encourage more people to make it worth the risk, Guerra said. Anything that makes it easier for the criminal defendant it encourages that bad conduct."

Guerra said programs such as the Hidalgo Pre-Trial Diversion Program already keep minor drug offenders out of jail.

The program allows drug addicts to go through a drug rehab program and if they successfully complete it, the offender doesn't have a drug charge on their record.

That TMs something Guerra says will help the person get a job.

Guerra said he does not think House Bill 2044 will pass.

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