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Friday, March 6, 2009

Too Many Drug Arrests?

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2009 at 10:37 PM

In last week’s cover story, “Playing Defense,” regarding the Orleans Public Defenders’ office, Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton complained the New Orleans Police Department was arresting too many people on minor violations, particularly drug violations.

     NOPD spokesman, Bob Young, responded by saying the city doesn’t have a city ordinance regarding small narcotics violations, so every violation must go to state court, and summonses can’t be issued for state court.

     Or can they?

     Bunton’s reply — “I know of no state law which forces police to take people into custody for minor violations, whether those violations be state or municipal” — seems correct. In fact, according to the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 211, police have the right to issue a summons instead making an arrest as long as the following exist:

  • The officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person will appear upon summons

  • The officer has no reasonable grounds to believe that the person will cause injury to himself or another or damage to property or will continue in the same or a similar offense unless immediately arrested and booked;
  • There is no necessity to book the person to comply with routine identification procedures.


     So why then does NOPD continue to arrest people for misdemeanor drug violations when a summons would be sufficient?

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