citation | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Policing / Procedural Law

A citation is a written notice issued by law enforcement for minor offenses, an alternative to arrest that can save time and resources.

A citation is a written notice that a person has been charged with violating a law or ordinance, typically for minor offenses such as traffic violations or city code violations. Citations are issued by law enforcement officers or other authorized officials, and their use can help save time and resources by avoiding the need for an arrest in certain situations.

When a person receives a citation, it generally includes information about the alleged offense, the date and time of the violation, and the name and badge number of the issuing officer. It may also include instructions for how the person can contest it or pay any associated fines, as well as the deadline for doing so.

Citations can serve several purposes in the criminal justice system, including:

Deterrence: They can help to deter individuals from committing minor offenses by imposing financial penalties or other consequences for breaking the law.

Education: They can raise awareness about specific laws and regulations and help to educate the public about the importance of compliance.

Enforcement: They allow law enforcement officers to address minor offenses without the need for a formal arrest, which can be time-consuming and resource-intensive.

Revenue Generation: In some cases, citations can generate revenue for local governments through the collection of fines and fees.

Citation in lieu of arrest is a process that enables law enforcement officers to issue a citation for certain minor offenses rather than making an arrest. This approach can have several benefits, including:

Saving Time and Resources: Issuing a citation can be quicker and less resource-intensive than making an arrest, which can free up law enforcement officers to focus on more serious crimes.

Reducing the Burden on the Criminal Justice System: Citation in lieu of arrest can help to reduce the number of individuals processed through the criminal justice system, easing the workload for courts, jails, and other related agencies.

Providing a More Convenient Resolution: For individuals who receive a citation, resolving the matter may be more convenient than being arrested, as they can often pay the fine or contest the citation without the need for a lengthy court process.

Despite these potential benefits, the use of citations has faced some criticism. Some argue that citations can be used to unfairly target certain groups or individuals, such as racial or ethnic minorities or those from lower-income backgrounds. Additionally, critics suggest that relying on citations for minor offenses might enable some individuals to avoid facing more severe consequences for their actions, particularly if they have a history of similar offenses.

In conclusion, citations serve as a tool within the criminal justice system to address minor offenses without resorting to arrest. They offer several benefits, such as saving time and resources for law enforcement and providing a more convenient resolution for individuals. However, it is crucial to ensure that citations are used fairly and do not disproportionately target specific groups or individuals.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/07/2023

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