What is a summons? The complete definition

A summons is a legal notice issued on someone to inform them that they are required to take part in a legal proceeding. It is a formal order requiring the individual to respond to a civil claim or criminal charge brought against them, or to give evidence for a matter and provide other relevant documents. An individual must respond, otherwise they risk losing the case by default. This Business Kitz blog will provide you with all you need to know about a summons.

What does a summons include?

They should include the following information:

  • The name of the person who will receive the order;
  • A declaration that the court has asked the person to give evidence or documents;
  • Outline the person’s response to a request that they give evidence or documents voluntarily, or explains why they have made this request;
  • Describes any requested documentation; and
  • Explains how the evidence or documents relate to the issue in dispute in the proceedings.

Additionally, a summons is mandatory for certain situations, but to maintain the notices’ success, the following are situations that may be refused:

  • Where there is a call for the creation of a document;
  • The request cannot be too broad;
  • Where there is a reference to an order for an irrelevant issue in dispute; and
  • Where they have been issued at an inappropriate stage of the proceedings.

What are the types of summons?

Judicial summons

Judicial summons are served on a person in a legal proceeding, ie. someone against whom legal action may be brought against or someone who is required as a witness. This document will provide the date for court attendance or, in some cases, a requirement to respond to the other parties in writing.

Court attendance notice/administrative summons

Law enforcement officials typically serve a court attendance notice for things such as, minor traffic offences, misdemeanours, or other summary offences. In Australia, an individual can pay fines for these types of notices or contest the offence in court.

Civil summons

Civil summons are similar to the judicial version, only its main purpose is for civil proceedings. This generally creates a requirement for someone to attend court to resolve the dispute.

Methods of service

Summons must be served in a very specific manner. Generally, this is done through a personal service, either by a court official or an administrative service agency. In smaller courts, service by mail may be suitable. In exceptional circumstances, however, service may be made through a publication when it is difficult to find the exact location of the person of interest.

If a person does not accurately serve a summons, they risk it not being legally valid. The summons may state the allocated time that an individual has to respond, and this is why it is essential that the plaintiff serve the order correctly. 

Legal advice

To learn more about their nature and the processes behind it we recommend seeking legal advice. Our sister company, Legal Kitz can assist with ensuring that your concerns are addressed and can provide you with advice that is tailored to your situation. You can book a free 30-minute consultation with their experienced and highly qualified team via their website now.

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