Friday, September 11, 2009

Carter: We Already Did That

Posted By on Fri, Sep 11, 2009 at 7:43 PM

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During a recent interview with Councilmember James Carter, Gambit asked Carter about NOPD’s current procedure of arresting anyone suspected of first-time, misdemeanor, marijuana possession, rather than issuing summons. Carter, who is the chair of the Council’s Criminal Justice Subcommittee, said that the Council had attempted to provide the NOPD with some legislative guidance when it passed an ordinance in March 2008 permitting the issuance of a written summons instead of arrest.

“[It] was to encourage NOPD not to arrest individuals on municipal violations, as opposed to giving summons for municipal violations,” Carter said, referring to the ordinance (amending the Article I of Chapter 54 of the city’s municipal code). The Councilman did clarify that the ordinance was intended to address all municipal violations, which includes first-time, misdemeanor, marijuana possession. He did, however, specify how he thought NOPD officers should handle cases involving first-time, misdemeanor, marijuana possession.

“It should be a summons,” Carter said.

In August, Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro addressed the Council, requesting they pass an ordinance allowing first-time, misdemeanor, marijuana possession cases to be prosecuted in Municipal Court rather than Criminal Court. The move, according to Cannizzaro, would relieve the Criminal Court docket of about one-third (700 cases) of its caseload, and would enable the DA’s office to focus on more serious, violent crimes. It would also help with crowded conditions at Orleans Parish Prison, Cannizzaro added, “if the police were of a mind to write the affidavit, rather than arresting someone for the simple possession.

Off camera, Carter can be heard saying, “exactly.”

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