How Long Until You Receive a Citation in the Mail? A Comprehensive Guide

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on September 10th, 2023

Waiting for a citation in the mail can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re not sure how long it will take for the document to reach you. If you’ve recently committed a traffic violation or other minor offense, this question is probably top of mind. This article will serve as your comprehensive guide, answering your burning questions and filling in the gaps, all backed by trusted expertise on citations.

What Exactly is a Citation?

A citation is a legal document issued by law enforcement as an official notification that you’re suspected of a crime. Unlike more serious criminal charges, citations are often issued for less severe offenses. These can range from traffic violations like speeding to misdemeanors such as petty theft and public disturbances. The citation itself usually contains essential information, such as the date and time you’re required to appear in court, as well as details about the alleged offense. Ignoring a citation and failing to appear in court can lead to further penalties, so understanding the timeline for its arrival is crucial.

What exactly did I do wrong?

The Typical Timeframe for Citation Arrival

While the exact timing can vary, you can generally expect a citation to arrive in your mailbox within four to eight weeks. Some circumstances can expedite this process, but it’s advisable to contact the court if you haven’t received it within the upper limit of eight weeks. While traditional mail is the standard method, some jurisdictions offer alternatives like online case tracking or even email delivery, providing you with different ways to confirm receipt of your citation.

Factors Influencing the Time to Receive a Citation

Proximity to the Issuing Police Department

The distance between your home and the police department can significantly impact the time it takes for your citation to arrive. If you reside closer to the issuing police department, there’s a higher likelihood of receiving the citation sooner. Road conditions, like heavy traffic or construction, can also influence the timeline, especially if the police department is situated far away.

Operational Efficiency of the Police Department

Another factor that can impact the timing is how quickly the police department processes citations. After an officer writes a citation, it needs to be entered into their system before it gets sent off to the court. This step varies in duration, depending on the department’s size and the number of citations they’re handling. If the police department is particularly busy or short-staffed, this could prolong the time it takes for you to receive your citation.

The Postal Service Delivery Times

After the citation leaves the police department, its delivery is in the hands of the Postal Service. While a first-class package usually arrives within three days, this timeline can be extended during high-volume periods like the holiday season. Delivery hours also play a role; typically, you can expect mail delivery between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

What to Do if Your Citation Doesn’t Arrive

Not receiving a citation can be a serious issue; a failure to appear in court can result in an arrest warrant and additional charges. Therefore, it’s crucial to be proactive if you haven’t received your citation within the expected timeframe. Many courts issue a courtesy notice with your court date, and if you haven’t received this either, it’s best to contact the court for further guidance.

Alternative Ways to Obtain Your Citation

If you’re uncomfortable relying on traditional mail, you can opt for alternatives. Visiting the police department in person or requesting an electronic copy via email are viable options. You can also directly consult the Clerk of Superior Court’s office if you’ve lost your traffic ticket or need information about the court’s address.

How to Confirm Receipt of Your Citation

If you’ve waited an adequate amount of time but haven’t seen your citation in the mail, there are ways to confirm its status. You can reach out to the issuing police department or your local court, although you’ll likely need to provide personal identification details. Additionally, consulting your local post office can shed light on whether the citation has arrived but is being held for some reason.

When You Should Contact the Court

If you haven’t received a notice 45-60 days after the citation was issued, contact the court to confirm the status of your case. Remember, even without a courtesy notice, you are still obligated to take timely action based on the date indicated on your citation. Contacting the court is a preventative step to avoid complications later on.


The time it takes for a citation to arrive in the mail can vary for multiple reasons, including your distance from the issuing police department, the department’s processing speed, and the postal service’s delivery times. If you don’t receive your citation within the expected time, it’s crucial to be proactive and seek alternative ways to obtain it to avoid legal complications. Understanding these variables will prepare you for a smoother, less stressful experience with the legal system.


Editorial Staff

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