A citation or appearance ticket is an alternative to an arrest. The idea is that when a subject commits a minor offense the officer can give the subject a citation. There are several purposes for giving a citation instead of an arrest (1) the offense is minor and the subject is likely to appear in court as requested, (2) it saves the officer significant time because they do not need to book and post bail for every minor arrest (or get an arrest warrant), and (3) it keeps the jail system under control because less people will be waiting for minor offenses.

State v. Bayard

71 P.3d 498 (Nev. 2003).

Charged with carrying illegal drugs but the trial court determined to suppress the evidence.


Whether the officer abused his arrest discretion by performing a full custodial arrest for a mere traffic violation.


To have a valid arrest, based on state constitutional grounds, the officer’s discretion must be reasonable as shown through (1) probable cause and (2) a need for the arrest.


Here, the officer’s discretion was unreasonable so the evidence must be suppressed.


After watching the defendant commit two traffic violations, the officer pulled him over. The defendant responded amicably and readily provided licensing, admitted he had a gun with a concealed carry and even was willing to subject himself to a search. However, the officer decided to make the arrest based on the traffic violations, took the defendant to the station where a strip search was conducted and drugs were found.


This type of arrest is fine under the federal constitution by reason of the Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318 (2001). The federal rule is that an arrest for even a minor offense is constitutionally permissible if there is probable cause that the crime was permitted. However, states are still free to limit the discretionary power through state legislation. Here, Nevada had legislation and the court interpreted it to mean that an arrest cannot occur (instead a citation should be given) if there is no reason to conduct the arrest for a minor violation.

Here, all the defendant did was a minor violation, there was no evidence that he would not go to court, and he did not appear to be a threat of committing other crimes. Therefore, an officer cannot subject him to a full arrest and strip search without other reasons (more than a hunch).

Additional Notes

Typically, when a full arrest occurs, officers can conduct a search. However, even if the officer could have made an arrest (but gave a citation anyways), a search is not allowed. See Knowles.


The content contained in this article may contain inaccuracies and is not intended to reflect the opinions, views, beliefs, or practices of any academic professor or publication. Instead, this content is a reflection on the author’s understanding of the law and legal practices.

Will Laursen

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