Your Rights When Served with a Criminal Summons in Florida
There’s a lot of confusion regarding the legal effect of a criminal summons, which is why many people can get into trouble based upon their reaction to receiving one. The Florida statute on a criminal summons isn’t all that helpful, either. It simply states the circumstances under which a judge will issue a summons instead of a warrant, and the information that the document must contain. Therefore, you need to look elsewhere to determine the impact of a criminal summons, what it means, and how you should respond to avoid putting yourself in an unfavorable position.
You should trust a Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney to handle these details and others, especially since it’s likely that there will be additional criminal proceedings once you address the requirements of the summons. Meanwhile, some general information may be helpful.
Synopsis of Florida’s Criminal Summons Law: A summons is a legal document that you receive in connection with a criminal matter, containing allegations of illegal activity. You might receive one in lieu of a formal arrest, but it does include a description of the potential charges against you. It will inform you that your presence is required in court on a specific date and time, so it’s an order – not a mere request. As a summary of Florida’s statute, you should note that:
- A court can issue a summons instead of a warrant for your arrest, for cases that the can try “summarily” – i.e., minor or petty offenses, some of which are the equivalent of a traffic citation.
- When the matter involves misdemeanor charges, the judge cannot try the case summarily. Still, the court can go with a summons instead of a warrant if there’s a reasonable belief that you’ll appear.
- If the prosecutor convinces the judge that you won’t appear in court pursuant to a summons, the judge may opt to issue an arrest warrant.
Don’t Ignore a Criminal Summons: If you don’t appear in court at the time listed on the summons, it’s at this point that the court WILL issue a warrant for your arrest. Plus, since you’ve already disregarded the summons, there may be penalties in addition to the offense in the underlying case. Instead of ignoring it, you should take the following actions immediately upon receiving the criminal summons:
- Review the charges carefully to understand the acts you’re accused of committing.
- Document the date and location of the court date.
- Collect any evidence you have to dispute the allegations or defend the charges.
- Obtain legal counsel to represent you in connection with the summons and underlying crime.
Contact a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help with a Summons
It’s completely normal to not know how to respond when you receive a criminal summons, which is why your first priority should be consulting with a lawyer who has in-depth knowledge of the legal details. For assistance at any stage of the criminal process, please contact Fort Lauderdale defense attorney Kevin J. Kulik. We can schedule a case evaluation to review your circumstances and determine next steps.