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What is a court summons?
The court system exists to allow people to pursue justice in criminal and civil matters. When a judge needs or expects someone to show up for a hearing or trial, the court will send out a summons to this person.
People who receive a summons are often confused about what is expected of them or even if they have to respond to the court's request for their appearance. You can act accordingly and avoid legal complications the next time you receive a summons by understanding what it is and what is expected of you by the judge overseeing the case.
Definition of a Court Summons
Simply put, a court summons is a document that informs you of a legal proceeding either against or involving you to some degree. If you are facing legal charges in court, or are being sued by someone, you must be notified in writing by the court system in which the case is filed.
You may receive a summons in the mail; however, you could also be served by a sheriff's deputy or private courier. After you are summoned, you typically have a certain time frame to respond to this action.
Responses to a Summons
Your response should reflect the purpose of this document and the reasons for why the court requests you to show up for the case. If you are being sued by a creditor, for example, you are typically required to go to civil court and explain whether or not you can pay the bill. If you cannot pay the creditor, the trustee assigned to act in the judge's stead may ask that you disclose your finances and assets. This information lets the judge know if you can afford to make payments or if the court should enter a judgment against you.
If you are facing criminal charges, you may be well advised to hire an attorney. In fact, you can hire an attorney to act on your behalf regardless of the summons' nature. Even so, a criminal summons means that you could be facing jail time or fines, as well as charges on your record that could remain there for years, if not indefinitely.
This court document gives you enough time to hire counsel and act accordingly to defend yourself and deflect the action against you. Before you go to court, you should determine if you should hire an attorney and at what point it would benefit you to do so.
Retaining Legal Counsel for Summons
After you are notified about your case, you have the option to retain counsel. In fact, if you are facing criminal charges or other serious action that could undermine your freedom, your finances or your family's stability, you would be well advised to hire an attorney to help you.
A summons guarantees that you could be facing a trustee or judge who may not know the specifics of your case. Your attorney can make sure that you are well advocated for throughout the process, and that you escape the most serious consequences if possible.
When you receive a court summons, you should not ignore it, but rather decide how best to respond. As your future could be at stake, you should use the time allotted for your response to hire an attorney and decide what actions would be in your best interest to defend and protect your finances, your family and your freedom.