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Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS)


Reference Number: MTAS-398
Reviewed Date: 09/24/2021

Citation in Lieu of Arrest or Warrant
Police officers who have observed an ordinance violation or, upon investigating, have reason to believe a city ordinance violation has occurred may issue a citation to appear for trial instead of making an arrest, provided the person cited signs an agreement to appear and waives a warrant issuance. If the person refuses to sign such an agreement, the usual procedure of arrest, booking, and release on bail (or commitment to jail) applies. This procedure does not apply to non-residents of Tennessee or to a charge of driving while under the influence of intoxicants or drugs. T.C.A. §§ 7-63-101–107.

For arrests under Title 40 of the Tennessee Code, it is mandated that an officer use similar procedures for any misdemeanor. Specifically, T.C.A.§ 40-7-118 includes a list of situations in which the officer may use discretion and either issue a citation or detain the person. Another list describes situations in which citations should not be issued. When using this list, the police officer must write on each ticket the reason for not issuing a citation. This statute is somewhat detailed, and city police officials should study it carefully.

Officers are mandated to use citations instead of arrests for traffic violations not requiring the offender to appear before a magistrate or judge. This statute also sets out some exceptions and a detailed procedure that should be studied carefully by police officers involved in traffic control. See, T.C.A. §§ 55-10-207 and 55-10-203.

Citations in Lieu of Arrest for Health and Sanitation Violations
In the areas of sanitation, litter control, and animal control, a city may, by ordinance or resolution, designate employees who have the power to issue ordinance summonses for violations of any ordinance, law, or regulation. Such an ordinance summons is to be treated as a citation in lieu of arrest. If the offender refuses to sign an agreement to appear in court, the employee may request the clerk of the court to issue a summons, or he or she may request a police officer to make an arrest or witness the violation and issue a citation in lieu of arrest, as provided in T.C.A. § 7-63-104. If the offender fails to appear in court after signing an ordinance summons agreement, the court shall issue a warrant.[1] See generally, T.C.A. §§ 7-63-201–204.

[1] Please take note of the municipal court's contempt powers under the Tennessee Municipal Court Reform Act, specifically T.C.A. § 16-18-306.