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Citation Versus Arrest by North Carolina Law Enforcement Officers: A County-Level Analysis

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Professor Jessica Smith and graduate research assistant Ross Hatton.

Charged with identifying best practices and offering recommendations on how policing practices can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust, the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing recommended that law enforcement agencies develop and adopt policies and strategies that reinforce the importance of community engagement in managing public safety. Specifically, it recommended that agencies adopt preferences for “least harm” resolutions, including the use of citation in lieu of arrest for low-level offenses. Increased use of citations offers other potential benefits, including increased law enforcement efficiency. A report by the International Association of Chiefs of Police found that citations offer a time savings of just over an hour per incident. Additionally, increased use of citations can help reduce unnecessary pretrial detentions of low-risk defendants and associated costs, unfairness, and negative public safety outcomes. An arrest triggers an initial appearance and imposition of conditions of pretrial release. Because secured bonds are the most common condition imposed in North Carolina, see Jessica Smith, How Big a Role Does Money Play in North Carolina’s Bail System (July 2019), the decision to make an arrest versus issue a citation often results in imposition of a secured bond and associated wealth-based detentions. For these and other reasons, justice system stakeholders are interested in citation in lieu of arrest policies, particularly for low-level crimes. One common question that stakeholders have been asking is: What do we know about how often officers use citations or make arrests in North Carolina? Read on for answers.

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A Simple Idea for Reducing FTAs on Summonses: Redesign the Form

In a series of posts I’ve been discussing bail reform in North Carolina and various options to reduce pretrial detentions that do more harm than good. Some of the solutions are tough and complicated. Here I offer one potential solution that’s neither hard nor complex: Redesign the Criminal Summons form.

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Bail Reform in North Carolina—Pilot Project: Citation in Lieu of Arrest

In a series of posts I’ve been discussing bail reform, including highlighting pilot programs underway in North Carolina. In 2018, I worked with stakeholders in North Carolina’s Judicial District 30B (Haywood and Jackson counties) to help them identify and implement a basket of pretrial reforms. One of those reforms involves a new citation in lieu of arrest program. This reform includes implementation of a law enforcement-approved tool for patrol officers to encourage the increased use of citations in lieu of arrest for certain misdemeanors, in the officer’s discretion. The tool is a Cite or Arrest Pocket Card. Although the overall 30B project was a collaborative, multi-stakeholder endeavor, only the law enforcement community participated in the creation of the Pocket Card. The content of the card is reproduced below; in reality it’s a bright blue laminated card, the same size as the Miranda Warnings card.

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Citation for Open Container Violation that Omitted Elements Was Sufficient to Confer Jurisdiction

The North Carolina Supreme Court decided State v. Jones, ___ N.C. ___ (2018) on Friday, affirming the court of appeals’ determination that the citation that charged the defendant with transporting an open container of alcoholic beverage, but left out several elements, was legally sufficient to invoke the trial court’s subject matter jurisdiction.

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