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New protocols for drug cases announced in Travis County

There are very few people who believe that prosecuting addicts for possessing small amounts of drugs and handing them hefty prison sentences is doing anything to change the national drug problem. Now, at least one Texas district attorney is taking measures to re-write the rules on how certain drug cases are handled.

The Travis County district attorney has announced new drug prosecutions protocols in response to the state's growing backlog of cases and rising incarceration rates. Stating that the issue essentially comes down to how the state allocates its limited resources, District Attorney Margaret Moore ordered county crime labs to stop work on cases with only trace amounts of substances suspected to be drugs. Her office will no longer be prosecuting those cases.

In addition, the district attorney expects to redefine the criteria used to prosecute cases where less than a gram of drugs is involved. Currently, Travis county processes about 3,000 cases per year in that category.

The move is widely expected to cause more low-level drug cases to be dismissed and a larger number of would-be convicts referred to drug rehab and diversion programs instead. While the rest of the state has yet to follow suit, this is definitely a step in the right direction toward meaningful criminal justice reform.

The financial, emotional and social cost of a drug conviction is huge -- even when the defendant only possesses enough drugs for his or her own use. Far too many people who are suffering from addictions end up incarcerated instead of in treatment where they belong. If you've been charged with drug possession, make sure that you have experienced representation on your side to protect your interests.

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