BOSTON – The Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government recently issued a favorable recommendation for legislation relative to the decriminalization of minor offenses. The bill, presented by Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury), would permit law enforcement officers to issue on-site citations for certain minor offenses rather than to pursue a criminal complaint in court.

In particular, the bill would allow officers to issue civil citations for minor violations including littering, public drinking, trespassing and disorderly conduct. The legislation also provides law enforcement with the flexibility to make decisions based upon each immediate situation instead of having to pursue every offense as a criminal matter through the court system.

“This bill would provide the law enforcement community with another tool to better serve the public,” said Senator Moore, who possesses 22 years of law enforcement experience. “By not having to go to court to dispose of these cases, we can cut court costs and caseloads. We can also reduce the costs to the criminal defense system by reducing the number of low level offenses that require a court-appointed attorney.”

While existing laws already allow for the decriminalization of certain offenses, it is only made available after the defendant arrives at court during either an arraignment or a pretrial conference. Since the option is currently available at such a late in the process, it is seldom exercised.

The bill, S.1146, is has been referred to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means for further review. To continue tracking the legislation, please visit www.malegislature.gov.