A criminal citation is a method of charging a person with committing a criminal offense without going through the standard formalities of arrest, fingerprinting, processing, taking an individual before a judge to be arraigned, and posting of bond. Instead of making an arrest, a police officer can simply issue someone a criminal citation if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person cited will appear to answer for the charge.
Police officers have wide discretion in deciding whether to arrest a person or issue him or her a criminal citation. Individuals are most commonly cited for underage consumption, possession of marijuana, disorderly conduct, public intoxication, fake or false ID, and traffic offenses.
A criminal citation is required to state that the person's charge must appear within a designated period of time, commonly 7 to 10 days after the citation is issued. The failure to appear within the designated time period can result in the issuance of an arrest warrant.
If a criminal citation is defective in form, it will be dismissed. A criminal citation that does not comport with the requirements of the law is void as an instrument initiating prosecution, and a judge presented with such a defective citation has no authority to proceed with the matter. However, an individual may subsequently be charged with a valid citation or an arrest warrant.