What is a “cite and release”?
I have mentioned “cite and release” in prior articles. I will explain more about this option here.
Cite and release is an option under Texas law that allows police to write a citizen a citation when there is probable cause to arrest them for a Class B or Class A misdemeanor. The police write this citation instead of taking the person to jail.
If you receive a citation for a Class A or B misdemeanor, you still have to answer for this allegation. On the citation, there will be a court date. In Travis County, this court date will be in Justice of the Peace Precinct 5. You will report on that court date for magistration and release on personal bond. After reporting in Precinct 5, you will be sent to Pretrial Services to fill out the personal bond form and do an interview to gather some information for your release on personal bond. After that is finished, you will go back to Justice of the Peace Precinct 5 and be magistrated by the judge. You will be told your rights in the process and told what the charge is, and a bond will be set. Then the judge will sign your personal bond.
After your personal bond is signed, you will be sent to the bonding desk for a “walk-through”. At the bonding desk, you will be placed temporarily under arrest. Your booking photo will be taken and your fingerprints will be taken. Then you will be released on the personal bond signed by the judge with a court date to appear in the County Court at Law.
After that, the regular process for Class A and Class B misdemeanors will begin.
Common misconceptions about cite and release abound. The most common is that a cite and release is a Class C ticket. Any time you receive anything from an officer, you need to read it very carefully. You need to determine if it is truly a Class C ticket that can be paid, or a cite and release on which you need to do a walk through. If you have an encounter with the police in which they discover marijuana, and you receive a “ticket” – that is a cite and release. It is not a Class C; there are no Class C marjiuana offenses in Texas, no matter how small the amount was. Do not think you can blow off a cite and release like you can a Class C ticket—you will be charged with a Class A bail jumping and failure to appear. If/when you are arrested for the original offense for which you missed your walk through date, you will also probably have a charge for Class A bail jumping and will have to bond out for both.
Another common misconception is that officers HAVE to give you a cite and release for certain offenses. This is not true. Austin Police and Travis County Sheriff’s Office are two of the only agencies in the state who participate in the cite and release option. Other agencies in the Central Texas area and throughout the state likely do not participate in the program and you should not expect to get cite and release from any agency outside APD and Travis County. Even if you have an encounter with APD or Travis County, they are not required to write you a cite and release. You can still get taken to jail if if the officers deem it appropriate.
Cite and release is only available for Class A and B misdemeanors. It is not available for felonies.
If you get a cite and release or a Class C, or you received something from a police officer and do not know what it is, I am happy to evaluate your situation and determine what you are facing.