Dallas defense attorney Paul Saputo Jr. believes legalizing marijuana will have some benefit for the court and prison systems across the country. We talked to him about his thoughts on legalizing marijuana.
TestCountry: As a defense attorney who represents clients that have been charged with marijuana-related crimes, how much of an impact do believe legalization would have on your business?
Paul Saputo Jr.: Marijuana legalization would probably have a minor impact on my business. Most marijuana-related penalties are already low enough that in most cases no one wants to put much effort into investigating and prosecuting these offenses, and defendants are not usually concerned enough about hiring an attorney. It's somewhat rare for someone to call and tell me they have been charged with possessing marijuana and they desperately need an attorney to represent them. Marijuana prosecutions are for the most part a minor headache for the people involved and overall probably serve to just backlog the court system more.
TestCountry: How would marijuana legalization affect the court system?
Paul Saputo Jr.: I think the biggest effect legalization would have in the court system is to free up time for county prosecutors and judges to focus on other misdemeanor offenses like DWI, minor assaults, etc.
TestCountry: How do you believe it will affect the prison system in terms of population and other factors?
Paul Saputo Jr.: In my experience, people who are jailed over low-level marijuana possession cases are likely to bail themselves out quickly. If they can't bail themselves out, they are most likely poor. So, I think the biggest impact will be to remove a number of high-turnaround people, reducing some stress on deputies and jail systems, and to clear jails of poor people who would otherwise be able to bail themselves out quickly if they were not poor.
TestCountry: From your perspective, what are the pros and cons of marijuana legalization?
Paul Saputo Jr.: Some of the pros include:
1) The jail system is struggling in many areas of the country, and legalization will remove many people as an unnecessary stressor on this struggling system who are essentially being held in state custody because they are poor.
2) Police and prosecutors who are bound to enforce laws will be enabled to focus resources and time on prosecuting more serious and society-harming criminal activity.
3) Any potential medical benefits of marijuana can be more fully explored.
Cons include: The only con that I can think of is that states will inevitably come up with complicated regulatory and tax schemes for marijuana.
TestCountry: Do you believe it will eventually be legalized nationwide?
Paul Saputo Jr.: I believe, without much doubt, that eventually marijuana will be legalized nationwide.
TestCountry: Please feel free to add anything else you feel is pertinent to the discussion of marijuana legalization.
Paul Saputo Jr.: From my perspective as a criminal defense lawyer, I think it is important that we, as a society, take a look at what our goals are in when we criminalize behavior. The process of penalization costs society in terms of taking people off the street who would otherwise be taking care of their kids, in terms of paying for their incarceration and in terms of forcing them through a criminal justice process that requires time and resources of everyone involved.
Paul Saputo Jr. is a criminal defense lawyer in Dallas who is a member of the Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, the DUI Defense Lawyers Association and the Dallas Bar Association, among others. Prior to founding his own law firm, Saputo worked as an associate at the law firm of Vinson & Elkins, LLP and several of the leading criminal defense attorneys in the state of Texas.