State laws guide the circumstances under which a citation can be issued—often determined by the class of the alleged crime and subject to exceptions. Typically, the issuing authority is required to consider one or more factors when determining whether to issue a citation. Even if the presumption is to issue a citation, enumerated factors must first be considered.
Generally, a custodial arrest must be made if one or more of the following factors are present:
- There are reasonable grounds to believe the person will not appear in court, or the person has previously failed to appear.
- There are reasonable grounds to believe the person poses a danger to persons or property, or that the offense will continue.
- The person has outstanding warrants.
- A legitimate investigation or prosecution would be jeopardized by release.
- The person requires physical or behavioral health care—for example, being intoxicated.
State laws generally prohibit a citation from being issued in two common scenarios:
- The person refuses to sign a written promise to appear or requests to be taken before a judge.
- The person does not have or will not provide valid identification, or the provided identification cannot be verified and the person is unwilling to provide fingerprints.
States can use citations to reduce jail populations and provide local cost savings. Citations divert lower risk people from detention, reserving limited space and resources for more dangerous people. By providing an alternative to pretrial detention and release processes for certain defendants, citation in lieu of arrest can be considered a component of state pretrial policies.