Briefing Room: cited and released also means arrested

Captain Nicholas,

I have a question about the semantics of police work. In a recent issue of the Event-News Enterprise in the PD Calls section an entry caught my eye. It mentioned that an individual was “arrested” and then “cited and released in the field”. I have always believed that arrested meant a free trip to jail, while cited meant receiving a citation. How can both be in effect at the same time? Thanks.


Hi Tom,

This is an excellent question! I understand the confusion.

Your question touches on a common misunderstanding regarding the terms “arrested” and “cited.” It’s essential to clarify that these terms, while seemingly contradictory, can indeed apply simultaneously under certain circumstances.

When an individual is “arrested,” it typically implies that the person has been taken into custody by law enforcement officers due to suspicion of committing a crime. This custody can be brief and doesn’t always mean the individual is transported to a jail facility. The primary purpose of an arrest is to assert control over the situation. During an arrest, the individual is identified, and the investigation process (if necessary) can continue.

On the other hand, being “cited” refers to the issuance of a citation or ticket, which is a legal document charging the individual with a minor offense. This can be akin to a formal warning with legal implications, often used for lesser violations that do not warrant detention in jail.

The phrase “cited and released in the field” means that after the arrest, instead of taking the individual to jail, the officer issued a citation for the alleged offense and then released the person from custody on the spot. This process is commonly used for minor offenses where the law allows for the individual to be released with a promise to appear in court at a later date rather than being transported to jail.

We use this approach for several reasons. It reduces the burden on jail facilities, minimizes the time officers spend processing arrests for minor offenses and respects the rights and freedoms of individuals by not detaining them unnecessarily.

Keep your questions coming, Seal Beach! Email us at today!