What Is A Summons?

During a court proceeding, a summons is almost always sent to involved parties demanding that they appear in court. The plaintiff typically prepares the summons before they are sent to the defendant to announce that the defendant is being sued. The local sheriff, or another court personnel, performs as the process server by issuing the summons to the intended individual. A summons is an instrument that lets the defendant know that they have the right to be heard in court before a decision is made. They can respond to the summons and form a rebuttal against the lawsuit. They may not have to appear in court if they can formulate a strong enough rebuttal through their response. 

When Can a Summons Be Sent?

In the case of criminal activity, only a defendant that is dealing with minor criminal charges can be issued a summons. Otherwise, they would receive an arrest warrant requiring them to be apprehended by police to be sentenced or deemed not guilty in court. The summons is less strict and serves as an invention to allow the defendant time to respond to the charges. It is less embarrassing than an arrest but still can serve as a shock or surprise to the defendant. 

To send a summons, the plaintiff has to file a complaint. The country clerk must sign and seal the summons before it is served. The plaintiff receives a copy, and the process server also receives copies. 

The summons can come with additional documents, such as information or proof that deal with the lawsuit. For example, it can list all of the allegations against the defendant in support of the plaintiff’s complaint. Through the process server, the summons is then delivered. The process server then files an affidavit that attests that they served the defendant the documents outlining the lawsuit or charge. If the summons can’t be hand-delivered, in some cases, it can be sent through certified mail. The plaintiff is not allowed to serve the papers themself, only the sheriff or another qualified process server. After the summons is filed, it should be sent within 120 days, though this varies by state. 

What a Summons Includes

Typically, a summons must include the involved parties, the plaintiff’s attorney’s address, the name of the court, and the date and time of when the defendant must show up to court. There should also be details describing what will happen if the defendant doesn’t appear. For example, if the defendant doesn’t show up, the plaintiff may be awarded compensation. In another example, the defendant may be deemed guilty for not showing up to a trial to explain their side of the story. The judge can decide without the defendant there and enforce a default judgment in the plaintiff’s favor. 

If a summons is not properly served, then the defendant could show up to court and state that they didn’t receive the summons properly. This can stop the trial, requiring the plaintiff to serve the defendant again.