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E-CITATION® automates the issuing of traffic citations in North Carolina (NC).  Six hundred law enforcement agencies (LEAs) issue more than one million traffic and infraction citations annually. Prior to the implementation of the eCITATION® system, NC law enforcement officers (LEOs) wrote all citations by hand. Copies of the handwritten citation were given to the recipient, delivered to the local clerk of superior court (CSC) office, and kept on file by both the LEA and CSC involved. This process could be rather cumbersome and lengthy, as it involved entering the same information multiple times in different systems. Additionally, there was a high probability of mistakes being introduced due to illegible handwriting.

The project was conceived and developed as a solution to this manual process. With the advent of eCITATION®, a LEO may now enter citation information using a mobile data computer (MDC) in the patrol car and print out the citation to give to the recipient. The information is transmitted almost immediately and is available for access by the local CSC office, the official court record keeper. North Carolina is the first and only state to implement such a system. Two major benefits are time savings for both LEAs and CSC offices and the elimination of multiple data entry. LEOs can then spend more time on the streets, and clerks can better respond to court customers. As legislative mandates are given and user requests are evaluated, the AOC will continue to enhance the application in order to better serve the needs of the users.

The project was developed as a joint venture between the NC Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and the NC State Highway Patrol. Significant funding was also provided by the Governor’s Highway Safety Fund and the Governor’s Crime Commission. It is the first component of the AOC’s eCourt initiative, and it automates the creation of “non-arrestable” criminal and traffic citations by LEOs. During October 1999 through September 2001, a pilot project was conducted in Cumberland County, and after a successful pilot, eCITATION® was implemented in all 100 counties. As of December 31, 2007:

  • 223 LEAs with 9,809 officers statewide have been provided with eCITATION® access.
  • 3,759,342 electronic citations have been processed since inception.
  • 1,104,168 electronic citations were issued in calendar year 2009.
  • Over 76% of traffic and infractions citations are now issued through eCITATION®, and this number continues to grow.

While the AOC provides eCITATION® software at no cost to participating courts and LEAs, implementation, eCITATION® requires the following components:

  • Each participating CSC office must have a desktop PC with Internet connectivity and a laser printer.
  • Each participating LEA must have patrol cars equipped with a printer and MDC that access a wireless network.

E-CITATION® is a successful initiative because it automates a complex criminal justice process and its technological components are readily available. The project is an excellent example of collaboration among government agencies, including those in constitutionally separate branches of state and local government. Additionally, eCITATION® builds on the current infrastructure of the NC Criminal Justice Information Network Mobile Data Network.

E-CITATION® continues to progress. With the addition of their specific citation forms (AOC-CR-502), the system is now also used statewide by NC Alcohol Law Enforcement [ALE] officers. The AOC continues to seek further grant funding to purchase printers for LEAs. Two active advisory committees, one for CSC users and another for LEA users, meet periodically to collaborate with the developers and each other and to discuss ways the system can be enhanced. Further envisioned enhancements include:

  • Messaging– providing the clerks a highly desired capability to contact LEOs through eCITATION® through written messages.
  • Courtroom profiles – allowing clerks’ offices another highly desired capability to set specific rules or constraints to better regulate the volume of citation cases in courtrooms.
  • Longer term plans include the capability to process “arrestable” offenses.