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What is a citation in lieu of arrest?

It might not sound quite as bad as being arrested, but being presented with a citation in lieu of arrest is something that should be taken seriously. If you have received one, you should be contacting an experienced attorney to understand what to expect from the legal system and what your options may be.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, a citation in lieu of arrest is something that police in most states are allowed to issue instead of taking a suspect into custody. It is typically associated with an allegation of low-level, misdemeanor crimes. But in some states a citation may be issued for a felony. That makes it all the more important to consult with an attorney.

In Tennessee, the statute related to these kinds of citations says they can be issued in cases in which police are confident they have identified the suspect, the public is not in danger from the suspect being freed, and there is no reason to think the suspect won't appear in court on the date and at the time stated in the document. The stated intent of the law is to save the state money by reserving jail space for those considered to be most dangerous to public safety.

However, all of this is not to say that a citation in lieu of arrest is not a big deal, because it is. The consequences can still be just as severe as an actual arrest.

In Tennessee, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, an alleged misdemeanor can lead to a citation in lieu of arrest, with the exception of a drunk driving charge -- unless the driver was brought to the hospital or a medical facility for treatment for at least three hours. 

At the end of the day, it is important to keep in mind that every state's laws are different, so it's important to know what you are dealing with. A criminal defense attorney will be able to provide more information specific to your case.

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, "Citation in lieu of Arrest," accessed Dec. 8, 2015

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