A summons is an order to appear in court. In a criminal case, a summons is issued after a prosecutor has filed criminal charges against a defendant. The alternative to a summons is an arrest warrant. An arrest warrant commands the arrest of the accused by a police officer in order to be brought before a judge.
Requirements for a Criminal Summons or Warrant
A summons and warrant must meet all the following requirements:
- It must be signed by the issuing magistrate (judge).
- It must contain the defendant’s name or other identifying information.
- It must state the charged offense and whether the offense is one for which victim’s rights apply.
When a summons is issued, the document must order the defendant to appear at a specific date, time, and place no later than 30 days after the charging document is filed. If a warrant is ordered, it must command law enforcement to arrest the defendant and bring them before a magistrate as soon as possible. In addition, if a bond is attached to the warrant, it must indicate the amount of the appearance bond.
In most cases, a criminal summons in Arizona is served via U.S. mail by sending the letter first class to the defendant’s last known address. Please be aware: should a summons be returned to the court as “undeliverable”, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest.
The Criminal Charging Process
A prosecutor may initiate formal criminal charges by either filing a complaint (often referred to as a long form complaint), or by presenting the case to a grand jury to seek an indictment. But first, the prosecutor must review the police reports to determine whether there’s probable cause that the suspect has committed a crime.
They must also establish whether there’s a reasonable likelihood of a conviction at a trial. If there is, the prosecutor will move forward with the formal filing of criminal charges.
If, after reviewing the police reports, the prosecutor is concerned about the sufficiency of the evidence to support probable cause for the alleged criminal charges, he or she may send the case back to the investigating agency for further investigation.
A direct complaint is a charging document drafted by the prosecutor details the criminal offense(s) the defendant is alleged to have committed. A judge reviews the sufficiency of complaint and promptly issues a summons. The judge can issue a warrant if the defendant has previously failed to appear in court, if there is good cause to believe he will not appear, or cannot be readily served.
Grand Jury Indictment
Alternatively, a prosecutor may seek to formally charge a suspect by presenting the case to a grand jury. Grand jury proceedings occur in secret, and as a result of this secrecy it allows the State to charge a person with a crime without the person’s knowledge prior to the indictment being issued. In fact, it is a crime to divulge the happenings and decisions of a grand jury.
A grand jury is composed of at no less than nine and no more than sixteen people. If the grand jury determines there is probable cause to believe the suspect committed a crime, the jurors will formalize these findings by requesting an indictment (also referred to as a “true bill“). At the close of the proceeding, either a summons or arrest warrant be issued for the defendant.
What To Do If You’ve Received a Criminal Summons in Arizona
If you’ve been summoned to appear in court to defend against criminal charges, you’re probably wondering what happens next. For experienced and aggressive legal representation, contact an Arizona criminal defense lawyer at Lerner and Rowe Law Group.
We’re available 24/7 to take your call. You can reach us anytime throughout Arizona by calling 602-667-7777. You can also get in touch using our LiveChat service or by submitting the details of your case using our secure contact form.