Citation in Lieu of Jail
A citation is a written order (ticket) that is given in lieu of a custodial arrest and pretrial detention. They are issued for low-level crimes, such as non-violent misdemeanors and traffic offenses. Once a person is issued a citation, or “ticket”, they are required by law to follow up accordingly. Depending on the offense, this could include appearing at a scheduled court hearing, meeting at a designated governmental office, paying a fee, taking a class, community service, or a combination of them.
Virtually all states allow citations, but not all. And the crimes eligible for citations differ among them. For instance, Indiana only allows citation releases for traffic offenses, while Colorado allows them for many misdemeanors with the exception of violent crimes. In another example, Maryland allows citations to be issued for crimes that are not punishable by imprisonment, misdemeanors punishable by up to 90 days in jail, and misdemeanor possession of marijuana. This means some citations are arrests, and some are not.
• 19 states permit citations after arrest
• 9 states permit citations before arrest
• 10 states permit citations before and after arrest
• 2 states permit citations for some felonies (Louisiana and Oregon)
• 7 states do not specify which crimes an officer has discretion to issue citations for
• 10 states have laws that create a presumption that citations can be issues for some crimes under certain circumstances
When is a Citation Prohibited?
There are two common factors that typically prohibits law enforcement to issue a citation under state law:
1) The offender refuses to sign a written promise to appear before a judge.
2) The offender does not have (or refuses to provide) valid identification, or valid identification cannot be verified. This includes finger-printing.
Citation release is a beneficial policy for many states because it helps manage jai populations, keeping them as low as possible. Not only do they lower jail populations, they also deliver local cost savings too. And for offenders, it is a much better trade-off than sitting in jail for hours and then posting bond. But for those who get arrested and not cited, they will need a bail bondsman to get out of jail.