So What is a "State Citation" Anyway?

January 6, 2015

So What is a

So what is “State Citation” anyway? Is it like an arrest warrant? Is it like a traffic ticket?

The answer is that it’s a little bit of both of those things. Tennessee Code Annotated – the book of laws for the State of Tennessee – section 40-7-118 says that in most instances where person commits a misdemeanor offense in a police officer’s presence that officer must issue a “state citation” to that person and release the individual (there are LOTS of exceptions to this but we’ll get to that in a moment).

A state citation has the legal force of an arrest warrant and is an allegation by a police officer that you have broken the criminal law and can be subject to a fine or jail time. Yet the citation allows the individual to turn themselves in to law enforcement at a later date rather than being taken into physical custody by the officer right then and taken to jail right then.  Some courts in some areas have special procedures to deal with state citations. In Davidson County, for example, there is a specific court docket to deal with citations; a person can be booked in and have their first court appearance the same day. Some counties only hear state citation cases on certain days of the week or certain times of the day.

Does an officer have to issue a state citation? It depends. Most times the answer is “yes”. The officer must issue a state citation for all eligible crimes where no exception exists.

Some crimes are not eligible to be cited, a person charged by the police has to be arrested and taken to jail immediately. DUI is one such crime, Domestic Violence is another.

There is a list of eight exceptions where an officer does not have to issue a state citation (but has the option to). Where an officer does not have to issue a state citation, she can then get an arrest warrant (that means you’re going to jail right then). For example, one exception under T.C.A. 40-7-118(c)(2) is that an officer believes there is a reasonable likelihood that the person would not come to court. So if you have a lot of prior occasions on your record where you didn’t come to court, the officer may use that to get an arrest warrant instead of issuing a citation.

Most importantly, getting a state citation has the same legal effect as being arrested and charged with a crime. If you get a state citation the D.A. may seek punishment against you like probation, a fine or even jail time (yes, you can do jail time on a state citation…especially in certain counties). So if you get a state citation, call a lawyer! The attorneys of MMRS Law are well versed in citation practice and have hundreds of hours of experience in handling them. Don’t toss the citation like it’s a parking ticket, give us a call and we’ll help you.