Fort Bend County District Attorney Creates Diversion Program for First Time Marijuana Possession Cases

RICHMOND (Covering Fort Bend News) –  District Attorney Brian Middleton’s five months in office are marked by significant changes to the District Attorney’s Office and its processes.

“With a progressive vision addressing criminal justice in a county that will quickly reach a million residents, these changes are designed to be smart on crime, collaborative with criminal justice agencies, and to use tax dollars wisely,” said a press release from the DA’s office.

Middleton created pretrial diversion programs for first-time offenders charged with possession of marijuana or possession of cannabis oils or cannabis wax, and first time DWI offenders. “The diversion programs are second-chance programs that encourage defendants to accept responsibility for their behavior, receive treatment or instruction, and avoid the collateral consequences of criminal convictions,” the DA’s statement said.

“The cost of the diversion programs are paid by the defendants (except when indigent) and save tax dollars by avoiding the cost of incarceration while expediting the resolution of criminal cases.”

As part of Fort Bend County’s plan for comprehensive bail reform and compliance with federal law, the District Attorney’s Office recommends personal recognizance bonds in lieu of cash bonds for low level, low-risk offenders – including defendants charged with possession of marijuana. Moreover, when the circumstances dictate that the District Attorney’s Office should request a cash bond, the county now provides contested bond hearings where a defendant can challenge that recommendation.

“Some of the people arrested have made a mistake that is out of character; some are dangerous or career criminals, and it’s our job to discern who’s who and take appropriate action,” said Middleton. “If we can treat them with the right approach to reduce future illegal behavior, we’ve saved lives and relieved a burden to the county’s resources. But make no mistake about it, justice for victims of crime and the safety of our community is still what we’re about. Some need to go to prison, and we’ll do our best to send them there.”

“Middleton strives to employ the best trial attorneys in the State and has increased the level and frequency of training of prosecutors in order to achieve that goal,” the DA’s office statement said.

The Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office is also investigating complaints of public corruption and will seek funding from Commissioner’s Court for a public integrity unit.

“I evaluated my staffs’ needs quickly after taking office and determined we needed focused training and expert hires in several areas. We successfully lobbied for additional training dollars and new positions that will have an immediate impact on our caseload,” continued Middleton. “And while we need more staff to address the rapidly growing workload overall, public integrity investigations are a priority to me and the public. Investing in personnel now will save the county money later because it’s always more expensive to pay on the back end.”

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