Being charged with a crime can be scary and it’s normal for you to have a lot of questions about the charges you face and the legal process.
At Raybin & Weissman we work with you every step of the way to provide the guidance and legal advice you need to make the strongest defense decisions possible.
Our Nashville-based criminal defense lawyers leverage more than 100 years of combined experience and have successfully represented countless clients facing criminal charges, in many cases helping them to avoid conviction, a permanent record, and unnecessary penalties.
Regardless of the offense(s) for which you’ve been charged, we strongly recommend that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately after you are arrested or issued a criminal citation. Not only will an experienced attorney help you to navigate what will no doubt seem a daunting and intimidating process, s/he will help ensure the best possible outcome.
Criminal Citations: Frequently Asked Questions
What is a criminal citation?
Under Tennessee law, a criminal citation is issued for a misdemeanor criminal offense when the arresting officer chooses not to make a physical arrest. It may also be referred to as a misdemeanor citation. Most offenses eligible for citations are non-violent, such as simple possession, patronizing prostitution, or driving on a suspended license.
Is a criminal citation the same as a speeding ticket?
No! Although in both cases you are allowed to leave with just a piece of paper, speeding tickets are civil infractions that can only result in a monetary fine. By contrast, a citation is a criminal charge that could result in a criminal conviction and even jail time.
Does a criminal citation mean the charge isn’t serious?
No, any criminal charge is serious. Legally, there is no difference between being arrested versus receiving a citation in terms of potential outcome. Just like when a person is actually arrested for a misdemeanor, a criminal citation can result in up to a year in jail, hundreds of dollars in fines, probation, and a permanent conviction on your record.
Do I need a lawyer for a criminal citation?
Yes, you are strongly advised to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. Potential consequences of a criminal citation include jail, a fine, probation, court costs, and a permanent conviction on your record, which can affect your prospects for future employment, not to mention your ability to obtain housing or obtain select professional licenses.
An attorney can help guide you through the legal process, allow you to understand the decisions you might need to make, and resolve your case as efficiently as possible. Most notably, a lawyer can potentially negotiate a plea bargain or get your case dismissed.
When should I talk to a lawyer after I receive I citation?
You should consult with an attorney as soon as possible, and certainly before your booking date. In many counties, you will speak to a prosecutor on your very first court date, who may offer you a plea agreement. Unfortunately, many people plead guilty on citations and obtain permanent convictions like this without ever speaking with a lawyer. An attorney can also help you move your booking date if necessary.
What happens when you are booked for a criminal citation?
If you receive a criminal citation it will include a date on which you will be required to report to the courthouse or jail to be booked. At booking you will be:
- Law enforcement will run a records check to determine whether you have any outstanding warrants
- You will appear in court in front of a judge and prosecutor
- It’s in your best interest to be represented by an attorney on your booking/court date. It’s also advisable that you retain an attorney to represent you as soon as possible after you receive a criminal citation. Depending on the facts of your case, it may be possible to negotiate a resolution that does not require you to be booked.
Potential consequences of a criminal citation:
The potential consequences of a criminal citation include:
- Jail sentence
- Court costs
- Permanent conviction on your record
- Loss of firearm rights
- Harder to get a job
- Immigration problems (for non-citizens)
What are the offenses for which criminal citations are commonly issued in Davidson County?
Offenses for which criminal citations are issued in Nashville and the rest of Davidson County include:
- Simple possession of a controlled substance
- Unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia
- Underage possession or consumption of alcohol
- Leaving the scene of an accident
- Driving with a revoked or suspended driver’s license
- Disorderly conduct
- Theft under $500
- Issuing bad checks
- Patronizing a prostitute
- Indecent exposure
What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
A felony is an offense punishable by a sentence of a year or more. A misdemeanor is punishable by a sentence of less than a year. Specifically, misdemeanors carry a penalty of up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and can lead to a permanent criminal record.
Under what circumstances will peace officers not issue a criminal citation?
Section 40-7-188(c) of the Tennessee Code provides the conditions under which a criminal citation will not be issued. For example:
- You are so intoxicated as to be a danger to yourself or others
- You are in need of medical care or a medical exam, or you are unable to care for yourself
- There is a reasonable likelihood you would continue with the offense
- There is a reasonable likelihood that you would put persons or property at risk
- There is a reasonable likelihood that you will fail to appear in court
- You cannot or will not offer satisfactory evidence of identification
- You have one or more arrest warrants
- You refuse to sign the criminal citation or demand to be taken in front of a magistrate immediately
If you are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) you can expect to be taken into custody.
What is the rationale for issuing criminal citations?
The idea behind issuing criminal citations in lieu of taking suspects into custody is that it saves money and increases public safety by virtue of:
- Keeping peace officers on patrol
- Reserving jail space for dangerous individuals and/or felons
- avoiding unnecessary burden on the citizen
Can I be charged with a felony if I received a citation?
If you have received a criminal citation, it’s for a misdemeanor criminal offense. After you are booked, the prosecutor will review your case. If s/he decides felony prosecution is appropriate, the charges could be amended to a higher charge, but from our experience, this happens infrequently.
Does Raybin & Weissman represent students who have received a criminal citation?
Yes, our attorneys commonly represent college and graduate students from Nashville-area universities, including Vanderbilt, Belmont, Lipscomb and Tennessee State.
Does Raybin & Weissman represent individuals cited at Bonnaroo or CMA Fest?
What is the law regarding citations?
The relevant part of the Tennessee Code is section 40-7-118 – use of citations in lieu of continued custody of an arrested person:
A peace officer who has arrested a person for the commission of a misdemeanor committed in the peace officer’s presence, or who has taken custody of a person arrested by a private person for the commission of a misdemeanor, shall issue a citation to the arrested person to appear in court in lieu of the continued custody and the taking of the arrested person before a magistrate. If the peace officer is serving an arrest warrant or capias issued by a magistrate for the commission of a misdemeanor, it is in the discretion of the issuing magistrate whether the person is to be arrested and taken into custody or arrested and issued a citation in accordance with this section in lieu of continued custody.
What to do if you receive a criminal citation in Davidson County.
If you receive a criminal citation in Nashville or elsewhere in Davidson County, contact and hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer will have represented other similarly situated individuals, which will allow him or her to inform you of your options, argue your case effectively and potentially limit the damage caused by a conviction—or even avoid a conviction altogether.
We advise against showing up to your court date without a lawyer, as this increases the likelihood of a permanent mark on your record and a jail sentence.
Also, by accepting a citation you are agreeing to appear before trial to be booked and processed. Failure to appear is a Class A misdemeanor—a separate criminal offense—which is punishable by a jail sentence of eleven months and 29 days and/or a fine up to $2,500.
If you fail to appear on the specified date at the specified time a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest.
At Raybin & Weissman we aggressively defend individuals who have received a criminal citation.
Don’t let a criminal citation ruin your life or your reputation.
At Raybin & Weissman, we carefully review your charges, the events leading up to them, and the officers’ actions before and after the criminal citation. Any information obtained during our review will be used to apply pressure on the prosecution to offer a favorable plea deal or drop the charges altogether. If a plea deal is not in your best interest, we’ll develop an aggressive trial defense to disprove the charge(s).
Contact a reputable Nashville criminal defense attorney immediately.
If you have received a criminal citation don’t wait to contact an attorney. Steps can be taken immediately that can dramatically improve your chances of a favorable outcome.
Contact the criminal defense lawyers at Raybin & Weissman at (615) 256-6666 for a free consultation. We serve Nashville, Davidson County and the rest of Middle Tennessee.