In many criminal cases, the person being charged has not been formally arrested and taken into custody. Oftentimes a Los Angeles police officer is not even the one that observes the law being violated; it is a private security guard or someone similar.
If there is an altercation, or an incident that involves unlawful behavior, many times a police officer is not on site. In those situations, a private security guard or officer is authorized to stop the person committing the alleged crime and question them. Based on the statements of the security guard, officers who then arrive on the scene may cite the person asking them to appear in court, and never have them formally arrested.
Let's consider an example. David is accused of shoplifting at Macy's by private security guards working at the department store. They alleged that David stole several items of clothing and detain him for questioning. The officers base their accusations on surveillance tapes and experience with behavior of someone who has taken items in the past. Los Angeles police officers arrive at the scene and listen to the statements made by Macy's private security. Based on these statements, they write up a report and cite David with a Notice to Appear. The Notice to Appear gives him the date and time to appear before a Criminal Judge in Los Angeles County. The police officers do not take David into custody, and they do not take him to the police station for formal booking procedures. This is referred to as a Cite In case, because there was no formal arrest.
However, that does not mean that David will not be fingerprinted, and booked like he would if he had been taken into custody at the time of the arrest. When David appears in Court for his arraignment, he will be fingerprinted and a picture will be taken for his record.
Another situation, in which a cite-in is common, is in assault cases that happen in a bar or a club. For example, Dan is out with his friends at a bar and gets into an altercation with Victor. Dan punches Victor and he is promptly detained by private security working at the bar. Dan is kept with the security guards until Los Angeles police officers arrive on the scene. Officers write down the statements made by the security guards and write up a police report. Additionally, they give Dan a Notice to Appear and send him home. Dan has been cited, but has not been formally arrested. He will be fingerprinted and entered into the system when he appears in court.
Whether you have been arrested the night of the incident, or will go through booking procedures when you appear before a Criminal Judge, the consequences of the charge will have the same serious consequences. An experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer has handled thousands of cases that involve cite-ins and will work hard to protect your rights and assure that your case sees the best possible results.