The Miami-Dade Police Department is tired of wasting valuable resources to bring the heat down on low-level pot offenders. They hope the city will accept a new proposal later this week, which aims to decriminalize the possession of marijuana and, ultimately, allow officers to focus efforts on more serious crime.
A recent report in the Miami Herald indicates the department is standing behind a proposed ordinance that will allow city police to simply issue citations to those people caught in possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. The measure, which is being sponsored by County Commissioner Sally Heyman, is expected to not only save the city millions of dollars, but also prevent otherwise innocent people from being jammed up in the criminal justice system.
“It allows us to give someone a break,” said Heyman. “It doesn’t destroy somebody’s life because they smoked a joint at a concert, or had a pipe in their pocket.”
As it stands, anyone found holding even the smallest amount of marijuana is charged with a misdemeanor, which comes with a maximum sentence of up to a year in jail. While police currently have the option of not arresting people for pot, the severity of the charge still requires an appearance in criminal court. Under the latest proposal, however, an officer would be allowed to simply issue a $100 fine and the recipient of that ticket would not go before a judge.
Unfortunately, even if the ordinance passes, it appears that Miami-Dade police would still be allowed to charge people with misdemeanor possession. In accordance with Florida law, which permits some misdemeanors to be handled as civil infractions, officers would have the option to write a citation only if the suspect does not have an extensive criminal past.
“We helped draft and support this effort as a discretionary option for misdemeanor marijuana,” Juan Perez, deputy director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, told the Herald. “This gives the option to go with a citation for those individuals that may have no record, or only a minor criminal history, [and] stay out of the criminal justice system.”
The proposed ordinance is scheduled to go before the Metropolitan Services Committee on Wednesday. Depending on the outcome, the committee could begin debating the issue within the next couple of months. It would then be up to Mayor Carlos Gimenez to make the final decision.