Maryland lawmakers are considering legislation that would permit police officers to issue citations to offenders accused of low-level citations—such as shoplifting—rather than arresting the offender. Legislators cited the more than 170,000 arrestees in Maryland each year, considering whether all of them pose such a significant risk to public safety that detention is necessary.

While the debate continues over which offenses would be citable, giving police officers discretion to cite rather than arrest permits a more efficient justice system. Police officers would not be tied up with transporting offenders to jails, and filling out the paperwork attendant to arrest and detention, returning to patrol beats more quickly. Costs of arrests and detention could decrease, with little, if any, increased risk to the public safety.

Texas implemented such a law in 2007, giving police officers permission to issue citations rather than arrest those accused of non-violent class A and B misdemeanors. While it is not yet widely used, providing such discretion could provide immense cost-savings and efficiencies to the criminal justice system.