What Is A Summons, And What Should I Do If I Get One?

Most of us don’t have to deal with legal issues very often in our life, so when a summons arrives through the door, it can be a time of anxiety and upset. Although we may already be aware that we need to appear in court, and may have already prepared ourselves mentally, getting a date can be a bit of a shock, and it can worry even the most relaxed of us. However, if you get a summons, also known as a claim form, it’s important to get things organised right away. The first step should be to get professional legal advice, and they will be able to explain the process to you.


Types of summons

There are many types of summons or claim forms you may receive, and these include:

  • Civil cases – You may receive what’s known as a claim form, especially for a small claims court case. This should be completed by yourself, with legal advice if necessary, and returned by the date requested. If a hearing needs to be held, then you’ll get a further summons with the date and time to appear.
  • You can also receive a summons for an unpaid parking ticket, council tax bill, or fine, and if you choose not to pay you’ll need to appear in court instead. You may want to get legal advice to find out what your options are, especially if you’re disputing something.

Criminal cases

These summons could be for:

  • Summary offences – Used for minor offences that are to be heard in a magistrates court without a jury. This could be for common assault, driving while disqualified, vandalism, or other cases that are relatively straightforward.
  • Indictable offences – These are more serious charges that are to be held in a crown court, and could include offences such as rape or murder.
  • Either way offences – These could be tried at either a magistrates or crown court, and include offences such as burglary or theft.

It’s vital in criminal cases to get legal representation as soon as possible, ideally before your first interview with the police. Using a law debenture process agent makes the process of being summoned and dealing with the courts much easier and less nerve wracking for those who haven’t been charged before.

Weighing up options

Many people want their legal issues to go away as quickly as possible, and there are ways that your legal team can help speed things up. If you’re planning to put in a guilty plea, this often ensures the case goes quickly, especially if it’s a minor or first offence. You could also speak to your legal team to find out your options for getting a plea bargain. This basically means you can negotiate with the courts for a lighter sentence in exchange for your guilty plea. It’s important to have the co-operation of the judge and to take your solicitor’s advice on these matters.

If you’ve got a summons for something like a parking fine or unpaid council tax, you can often avoid court by just paying the money owed. The same goes for small claims, it can often be easier to just resolve the issue before it goes to court. There are often many chances to appeal before the court date, as running a trial is expensive, and the court will want to avoid it wherever possible. Therefore, if you can set up a payment plan or other option, then this might be an easier route.

Although court action is often a last resort, it can still be a shock to get involved with it, which is why you need to get good legal advice as soon as possible. This will make the process much quicker, and ensure you’re confident with the path you choose to take.

About the Author:

Micaela Locke is from Law Debenture, a group of financial and professional legal service agents and law debenture process agents dedicated to specific business issues like investment trust and fiduciary.

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