Texas leads the nation in the number of people who are convicted of crimes and later exonerated, followed by Illinois. In addition to the problems inherent with wrongful convictions, a study has found that African-Americans were much likelier to be wrongfully convicted of drug offenses, sex assaults and murders than were others.
Two Texas residents were arrested on drug charges on Feb. 16 after authorities found $36,000 of hydroponic marijuana in their vehicle. The incident took place in Jefferson County.
A Texas county is rolling out a new policy to decriminalize low-level possession of marijuana. Harris County is where Houston is located, and the policy will allow those found to be in possession less than four ounces of marijuana to resolve their case by taking a four-hour drug education course. If these people complete the course, they will not receive a ticket or be taken into custody. Furthermore, they will not be required to appear in court.
Two 19-year-old Texas men were taken into police custody after a search warrant was executed at an apartment on Feb. 8. Police reportedly obtained the search warrant for the College Station apartment while they were conducting an investigation into alleged marijuana sales. Both of the men were held at the Brazos County Detention Center before they were released on bond.
On Feb. 2, a 68-year-old man whose sentence was commuted by Barack Obama in 2015 was detained by police in San Antonio on a number of new drug-related charges. Obama in that year had commuted the sentences of many federal inmates who were serving sentences in connection with nonviolent drug crimes.
Texas residents may have heard that Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 330 people convicted of drug crimes on his last day as president. The federal sentences were cut short as part of his final act before leaving office on Jan. 20. In total, Obama commuted the sentences of 1,715 people, which was the most by any president. While in office, he commuted the sentences of 568 inmates who had been sentenced to life in prison.
Drug possession charges against a 24-year-old Texas man were dismissed by a Harris County judge on Jan. 4 after forensic tests revealed that he had been arrested for possessing about a pound of what turned out to be quite legal cat litter. The Harris County Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond to the news or offer an apology to the man for releasing his mugshot and name in a press release following his arrest on Dec. 5.
On Jan. 1, Texas police officers arrested a man from out of state for possessing medical marijuana. The 67-year-old grandfather, who lives in California, was initially pulled over for speeding. During a search of his vehicle, police found 4 ounces of marijuana and edible cookies in his trunk. The man has been charged with two felonies. He was released from jail after posting bond.
Texas residents may have read media reports about synthetic drugs with street names including bath salts and spice. A list of banned substances is maintained by federal authorities, but narcotics makers often alter the formulas of their products in order to skirt the rules and offer intoxicating compounds legally. Federal lawmakers generally act quickly to reclassify these dangerous drugs, and state legislators have also passed laws banning substances like cannabinoids and cathinones.
Drug-related charges remain a leading cause for fines and jail time in Texas and across the United States. An Arkansas case sheds some unsettling light on how these charges are sometimes erroneous, and it serves as a warning to motorists about taking steps to avoid them.