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What is a Criminal Summons?

Criminal Summons

If you received a Criminal Summons, it’s important to talk with a defense attorney. You may not realize it, but you now stand accused. You face criminal allegations.

The consequences of a conviction are exactly the same as if you had been arrested and taken to jail. There is no difference to the NC criminal laws and how they may affect you long-term.

“Sometimes people don’t realize what they face when they are served with a summons. A criminal summons can be issued on even serious felony charges in Raleigh NC.”

– John Fanney, Defense Lawyer

What is a Warrant for Arrest? Police

But for getting arrested and taken to jail, a summons is just like a Warrant for Arrest. You may have also heard that called an Arrest Warrant.

It is nothing more than formally bringing criminal charges against you. A summons provides some basic information about the allegations and what law or laws supposedly have been broken.

Due to relatively recent policy changes in our legal system involving bond reform, bail, and release issues, the North Carolina Legislature has authorized several different options for presentation of a case.

An Arrest Warrant sets forth a basic statement of the allegations and further instructs law enforcement (police officers, deputies, sheriff's department officers, etc.) to arrest you, take you into custody, and bring you to the Wake County Jail.

All warrants in NC must be based on a formal finding of Probable Cause. That’s consistent with the legal protections provided under the 4th Amendment.

You can download a sample Warrant for Arrest for Felony Charges here.

What is a Criminal Summons?

The primary difference between a Warrant and a Criminal Summons is getting arrested and not getting arrested. A criminal summons may be issued for both criminal charges and criminal infractions in North Carolina.

The exact same legal standard still applies. A criminal summons may only be issued upon that same finding of Probable Cause by a judicial official. In the Wake County criminal court system, summons would normally be issued by a Magistrate.

Each case is different and is the case with many legal matters, there may be exceptions to the general procedures and protocols. Speak with a criminal lawyer about the unique aspects of your criminal charges.

That’s one reason problems can develop with a criminal summons. You may not understand the severity of the charges against you.

Find Your Court Date

Sometimes people don’t realize how serious things may be. A summons may be issued for either misdemeanor or felony charges.

“While a summons for a serious felony may be more common in Charlotte, it’s also possible in Raleigh. If you’ve been served, we think you should talk to a lawyer right away.”

– Criminal Defense Lawyers in Raleigh NC, John Fanney

The basics of a criminal summons include:

  • A brief, basic statement of the criminal charges
  • Order directing you to appear in the court and answer the charges against you
  • Court appearance date in Wake County (or the specific jurisdiction)
  • Court date, location, time to appear
  • Once issued, a criminal summons must be assigned a court date within 1 month
    • More time may be allowed upon a finding of “cause”
A Criminal Summons is NOT a Civil Lawsuit

One of the reasons people may get confused, if they’ve seen TV shows where people are served with legal process for lawsuits and “You’ve been served.”

A civil lawsuit is fundamentally different than criminal charges. The standard of proof is different, so are the consequences. A criminal summons also is not the same thing as an Indictment in NC.

Civil Lawsuits normally involve money for things like Breach of Contract or a car accident “personal injury” complaint. If you fail to respond to a civil summons, you generally don’t get arrested.

That’s not true with a criminal summons. If an FTA Failure to Appear is entered, the law allows for the entry of an OFA, which stands for Order for Arrest.

It’s important you understand one fundamental fact: A criminal summons is for criminal charges. You face criminal charges.

The DA’s Office, Judges, and defense lawyers take criminal charges serious for a reason. A criminal conviction can affect you long-term. You should take your charges seriously.

Wake County Criminal Lawer – John Fanney

It’s understandable you may have questions. We’re here to help explain the legal system and any charges you may face.

We don’t charge legal fees for consultation. That means you can call our law office, set an appointment, and talk about legal representation, all for free.

Attorney John Fanney is a Board-Certified Criminal Defense Specialist with more than 30 years in-the-trenches experience.

You may reach John by email at: John@FanneyLaw.com

Call now to discuss your legal options and how we may be able to help.

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