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When can a police officer give you a warning and when can't he?
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When can a police officer give you a warning and when can't he?

Like if he saw someone murder someone can he say "I'm gonna let you off with a warning, don't let me see you do it again". I'm just presenting this extreme because I've been in and seen situations where I'm shocked that the warning was all that was issued. Do police have any guidelines for giving warnings or is it solely at their discretion? And also if you are in law enforcement, if giving a warning IS based on your discretion, what kind of factors determine your decision to issue a ticket or not?
Additional Details
Bruce: Thank you, that makes sense that any crime with a victim there has to be an arrest. At what point do you hold the officer responsible for issuing a warning though? i.e. a person DWI is issued a warning and finishes the night by running someone over. And is it recorded in some kind of system when someone is issued a warning, so that you guys can make sure we aren't abusing your kindness?
Pablo: In my experiences your right, polite and businesslike has worked. Except on one occasion where I had given him no trouble, no complaints, and etc. I think he thought I had been through the process one two many times and issued me a ticket with a smirk.
Silvercharm516: Wow that is interesting. Have you ever been in a situation where because of the zone or time period, the citation was issued grudgingly?


For criminal offenses that are reported by the victim, they are obligated to take a report and ultimately the District Attorney makes the charging decision. For crimes committed in their presence without a victim, such as a drug offense, there is a little more discretion.

For traffic and other minor offenses, officers are given much more discretion, so different officers have different tolerances.

As a Field Training Officer, I teach the new guys to pay attention to the rest of the department so we are somewhat consistent with our discretion. I tell them to ask themselves if the majority of officers would make an arrest. If the answer is yes, then they should too.

There are only two instances where an arrest is mandated by our department policy. When a person has a warrant, and a domestic violence call when there is evidence of a crime. However, I can assure you a warning for a serious crime such as murder would result in that officer being severely disciplined and most likely terminated.

Pay attention to what Bruce wrote. He's sharp.

One possible situation to add to what he wrote...

There are times when our commanders create a "Zero Tolerance" zone or time period. During that time, we are told not to issue any warnings.

Solely at the Officer's discretion , HOWEVER , the supervisor reviews an Officer's day and would definately question no charge for murder.

An officer always follows the law in giving tickets , etc.

Some situations though are judgment calls.

However, the attitude of the driver, the time of day, the experience he/she had with the previous person can all affect his decision. He is human.


Joe B
Police are losing their discretion more and more, you know what you call a human who can't make his/her own decision - a robot.

Almost everything a cop had discretion on in the past, now requires a mandatory arrest because that means guaranteed $$$.

Bruce, are you forgetting many states now have mandatory drug arrests? You find that dime bag and no longer have the discretion to dispose of it and give curb side adjustment. Rather you drag them through a system and to clear your name of this dime bag, it costs like 1500. Or you can accept the charges, be labeled a criminal, and have the stigma of being labeled a criminal your entire life. Clearly people are going to pay, by making these arrests mandatory you can't tell me it had nothing to do with money.

It also has to do with the severity of the crime and the probability of a conviction in court. If a police officer witnesses a crime that is a felony, an arrest will be made. If the crime in that jurisdiction is one that requires that an officer makes an arrest (i.e. domestic violence), the arrest will be made. In other cases, it will depend a whole lot on the behavior of the subject. You get stopped by police for running a stop sign and you remain respectful and businesslike, the odds are in your favor that you will get a warning. If you try instead to give the officer a hard time, you will get cited.

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