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What is the difference between a warrant and a summons?

Individuals facing the criminal justice system often feel confused and intimidated by the entire process. With numerous layers of complexity and an unending stream of documents, it is easy for people to lose focus. In many instances, it is wise to gain a clear understanding of the different factors at work.

While many people might have a passing understanding of what purpose the summons and warrant serve based on anecdotal information or contextual definitions gleaned from popular entertainment media, it is important to understand how these documents can work in conjunction.

What is a summons?

The summons is a legal notice that orders an individual to appear before the court or produce documents by a specifically mandated date. The court can issue a summons in either criminal or civil proceedings. Failure to comply with the court’s order leaves the individual subject to further consequences.

What is an arrest warrant?

Individuals who received a summons but failed to appear in court at the specified time, will likely face an arrest warrant. The arrest warrant is a court order issued for law enforcement to arrest an individual and bring them before the court to answer the original charge. While a warrant is not required to make a lawful arrest, the document provides a clear notice regarding the charges being pressed against them.

No matter the severity of the criminal charge, it is wise to enlist the aid of an experienced defense attorney. With skilled legal representation, you can fight to minimize the consequences of a criminal conviction such as jail time, fines, community service or loss of driving privileges. Understanding your charges, the process and the potential penalties are likely first steps toward building a strong case in your favor.

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