Saturday, August 13, 2016

Stats on Marijuana: Same Song, Different Verse

As I wrote yesterday, a Grits for Breakfast post alerted me to the new Office of Court Administration (OCA) judicial case statistics. As I practice primarily in Brazos County, I was (and have been) curious to tease out data rather than rely on anecdotal evidence. The OCA statistics allow for an apples to apples comparisons from counties based not only on population, but also demographics.

The statistics below reflect OCA data on new misdemeanor filings for the 2015 CALENDAR year (CY) for counties with comparable populations to Brazos County. I have taken, ranked by population, Texas counties beginning with number 18 (Lubbock County) through number 23 (Hays County). If you check the misdemeanor filings I used yesterday for FISCAL year 2015 the total filing numbers are higher. I do not have a ready explanation, but used numbers based on the OCA database HERE for purposes of accumulating this table.

One note on the numbers. The population totals DO use the FY population totals. I use them here because these totals are more current, and do not impact the percentages related to the filings within the counties surveyed.

The numbers below reflect for CY 2015, the total number of new misdemeanor filings in the county, of that number how many of the filings were Possession of Marijuana (both Class A and B filings), what the percentage of the total filings were then POM related, and the same number and percentage of total for DWI (first only) filings. For additional context I took statewide totals as well.

Here are the results. Comments after the jump.

County        Population       CY 2015       POM  % of Total          DWI   % of Total          

Lubbock      293,974             4037               587          15%                   659         11%                        

Webb          266,673               2241               239          11%                  247         11%                                                

Jefferson     252,235               4022               551         14%                  476        12%                                                      

McLennan  243,441                4168              575         14%                  544         13%                                                      

Smith          218,842               3227              471           15%                 457        14%                                                

Brazos        209,152                3878              800           21%                525        14%  

Hays           185,025               3880               616           16%                 573       15%

Statewide    27M                  419,0001        60,875        15%               57,583     14%

Brazos County is filing Possession of Marijuana cases at a rate more than 6 percentage points higher than the statewide average, and more than 5 percentage points higher than the closest comparable county by population - Hays County. Several of these counties are demographically similar to Brazos County. Lubbock, McLennan (Waco), Hays (San Marcos) also are the homes of large university populations. This discrepancy in POM filings is more noticeable given Brazos County's DWI filings are identical to the DWI filing percentage statewide and in line with the compared counties.

Putting it another way, Lubbock County, home to Texas Tech University, has around 85,000 more in population than Brazos County, yet filed 223 fewer POM cases, while still managing to file 159 more total misdemeanor cases.

I use POM cases because of all the misdemeanor crimes currently on the books, this is the category of offense most likely to be decriminalized in the near future. Most counties have either relaxed enforcement or utilized pre-trial diversion programs that reduce their POM filings. This makes fiscal sense for the counties with these programs, while at the same time allowing arrestees with small, personal use amounts to avoid an unnecessary criminal prosecution that could effect them for years.

It would interesting to find out how more, if any, bonds for POM cases are for these counties. In Brazos County someone arrested on a Class B POM (less than 2 oz.) can expect to post a bond of $2000-$3000. I have a feeling that figure is substantially smaller in other counties, but do not have the data to back that up - yet.                                                  

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