What’s a Citation? Your Questions Answered

What’s a citation, and how does it impact legal proceedings in West Virginia? 

Understanding citations isn’t just about knowing legal jargon it’s about gaining a deeper comprehension of your rights, responsibilities, and the procedures that govern our legal system. At The Wagner Law Firm, we’re committed to providing informative content that empowers individuals to make informed decisions and understand their legal rights. 

What’s a Citation Mean in West Virginia Law?

In West Virginia, a citation is a written notice issued by a law enforcement officer to a person suspected of committing a minor violation of the law. It serves as a legal document that informs the individual of the alleged offense and provides instructions on how to address it. Citations are commonly issued for traffic violations, misdemeanor offenses, and certain civil infractions.

The Purpose of a Citation

The primary purpose of a citation is to initiate legal proceedings for minor offenses without the need for immediate arrest or detention of the individual. Instead of taking the individual into custody, law enforcement officers have the discretion to issue a citation, allowing the person to remain free pending resolution of the matter.

Key Aspects of Citations

A citation serves as a formal notification to an individual about an alleged legal infraction, detailing the nature of the offense, and providing specific information such as the date, time, and location of the incident. In West Virginia, such citations also include clear instructions on how to resolve the alleged violation. Options typically offered include paying a fine, appearing in court on a designated date, or formally contesting the charges.

Upon receipt of a citation, the individual is legally bound to follow the instructions provided. Ignoring these directives or failing to address the citation within the allotted timeframe can lead to further legal repercussions, which might include additional fines, the suspension of one’s license, or even the issuance of an arrest warrant.

Importantly, it should be recognized that the issuance of a citation does not equate to a determination of guilt. In the legal framework of West Virginia, any person who is cited for an offense is considered innocent until proven guilty. They retain the right to challenge the accusations levied against them and are entitled to present their defense in court before a judge or magistrate.


Harley and Heather gave me peace of mind as they walked me through the process of my DUI. Heather was so quick to answer even the smallest and probably irrelevant questions I had. I was extremely nervous to walk in the courtroom, but Harley made sure I was in and out of there in no time with the best deal I could think of. My DUI charge was reduced to a speeding ticket and some online DUI classes. Would absolutely recommend Harley and Heather if you’re ever in need of a lawyer.”

- Antea Jarazi


The Wagner Law Firm was amazing from beginning to end dealing with my case. This was my first time ever dealing with anything like this and they helped me tremendously and answered all my questions super fast. We got the best outcome possible for my case and I will be recommending Harley and Heather to anyone that’s ever in my situation."

- Savanna Cummings


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What to Do After Receiving a Criminal Citation

What’s a citation mean for you, specifically? Receiving a criminal citation in West Virginia can be a daunting experience, but it’s essential to remember that you have rights and options. Below is guide on what you should do after receiving a criminal citation in West Virginia to protect your rights and interests.

Understand the Citation

The first step after receiving a criminal citation is to carefully read and understand the document. Pay close attention to the nature of the alleged offense, the date and time of the incident, and any instructions provided on how to address the citation.

Don’t Ignore It

Ignoring a criminal citation will not make it go away. In fact, failing to address the citation within the specified timeframe can lead to additional legal consequences, including fines, license suspension, or even a warrant for your arrest. Take the citation seriously and act promptly.

Consult with an Attorney

One of the most important steps you can take after receiving a criminal citation is to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. A knowledgeable attorney can review the details of your case, explain your rights, and provide guidance on the best course of action moving forward.

Determine Your Options

After you’ve consulted with an attorney, your next step is to carefully evaluate the different ways you can respond to the citation. The approach you choose will depend on both the specific nature of the offense and your individual circumstances.

One option is to plead guilty, especially if you acknowledge your guilt and are ready to accept the consequences. This would typically involve paying any fines or penalties that come with the citation.

Alternatively, if you believe that you are not guilty or have legitimate defenses, you have the right to challenge the charges in court. In this case, your attorney would assist you in developing a robust defense strategy and would advocate on your behalf during the legal proceedings.

There’s also the possibility of negotiating a plea deal with the prosecution. This route might allow you to plead guilty to a less severe charge and consequently face lighter penalties. This is often considered when the evidence against you is substantial but there are mitigating factors that might lead to leniency.

Take Action

Once you have identified the most appropriate strategy, it’s crucial to move forward decisively to handle the citation. This process might entail appearing in court on the designated date if it’s mandatory. You should also prepare and submit all necessary documentation or evidence that could bolster your case. It’s important to adhere to any directives or guidelines issued by the judge or magistrate. Moreover, maintaining regular communication with your attorney and keeping yourself updated on the developments in your case will be essential in navigating through this legal challenge.

Follow Through

After addressing the citation, it’s essential to follow through with any obligations or requirements imposed by the court. This may include paying fines or completing any mandated programs or community service hours. Failure to comply with court orders can result in additional legal consequences.

Case Results

DUI Felony 3rd Offense

Not Guilty

DUI 1st

Not Guilty

Aggravated DUI 1st

Charge Reduced

.08 DUI Causing Death

Case Dismissed

DUI Felony Fleeing / Attempted Murder by Vehicle

All Charges Dismissed

.14 Felony DUI Causing Death Case

Reduced to Misdemeanor

Citations vs Arrests

Citations and arrests are both forms of legal intervention by law enforcement officers, yet they mark different points in the criminal justice process and have distinct consequences for the individuals involved.

When an individual is arrested, a law enforcement officer takes them into custody based on probable cause that suggests they have committed a crime. In West Virginia, arrests can be executed with or without a warrant, influenced by the specific circumstances surrounding each case. One of the most significant aspects of an arrest, as opposed to a mere citation, is the loss of freedom. Those arrested experience a direct deprivation of liberty, often being transported to a police station for booking and possibly held in custody pending bail or their arraignment.

Following an arrest, the legal journey continues as formal charges are typically filed by the prosecuting authority. The accused must then appear in court for arraignment, a crucial juncture where they are informed of the charges levied against them and given the opportunity to enter a plea.

This escalation into formal legal proceedings is a critical transition from mere citation, leading to more serious ramifications such as potential incarceration, fines, and the enduring impact of a criminal record if convicted. In essence, while both citations and arrests are pivotal interactions with law enforcement, arrests introduce a more profound and lasting engagement with the criminal justice system.

Harley Wagner

Defending West Virginia Residents for over 24 Years

Protecting West Virginian’s Rights

Understanding what a citation entails is crucial for anyone facing legal issues, including in the context of DUI charges in West Virginia. A citation serves as formal notice of an alleged offense, providing instructions on how to address the matter. While citations for DUI are possible under certain circumstances, many cases still result in arrests, leading to more severe consequences.

If you’ve received a citation for DUI or are facing DUI charges in West Virginia, it’s essential to seek legal guidance from a knowledgeable attorney who can help protect your rights and navigate the complexities of the legal system. At The Wagner Law Firm, our experienced DUI attorneys are here to provide the advocacy and support you need during this challenging time.

Don’t face DUI charges alone. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help you defend against DUI allegations and work towards a favorable outcome. Your future and freedom are worth fighting for, and we’re committed to providing the dedicated representation you deserve.

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