Someone from the Sheriff’s department just knocked on your door. When you answered, they handed you a court summons before telling you to have a good day. The feeling of dread and distress sank in immediately.
How on Earth are you supposed to have a good day now that you’ve received news of a lawsuit or complaint requiring you to prepare a defense for a criminal or civil court appearance? What exactly are you supposed to do now?
Continue reading to learn what you need to do after receiving a court summons in Baton Rouge.
What Is a Court Summons?
A court summons is a legal document signaling that a legal case is beginning against you or your business. The document tells the defendant when and where to be in court for a hearing. It may also specify what you need to do to avoid arrest.
You may get a summons and complaint when the charge is based on a specific complaint and lists the reason for filing the lawsuit and the plaintiff’s expected form of relief from filing.
When Might You Receive a Court Summons?
The sheriff (or another court-appointed individual) will personally deliver a court summons to you for divorce settlements and other lawsuits. However, you can also get a court summons through the mail if you are called upon for jury duty or to pay a debt collector. You will usually get a court summons if you are being sued for certain actions or damages you might’ve caused.
A court summons may be given to you rather than making an arrest. This generally occurs when the arresting officer believes that you don’t pose an immediate threat to the people in their community. When you get the summons, you will eventually have to stand before a judge in a courtroom.
What Should You Do After Receiving One?
Knowing exactly what to do can be confusing, but don’t ignore your court summons. By failing to respond, you can lose the case by default. It is essential to the outcome of your case that you respond to a court summons and attend the court appearances that follow.
We understand that this is a difficult, stressful time in your life. Below we’ve listed some actions that you should take after receiving the court summons documents.
Understanding the Legal Documents
It is essential that you understand the legal documents that are being sent to you. Read over it in its entirety to make sure that you don’t miss any important details. Once you are done, you should know the following details from the court summons:
- Which court system is summoning you (the jurisdiction)
- When and where your hearing is being held
- The name of the individual or company receiving a summons/facing charges (defendant)
- The case number
- The name(s) of the plaintiff
- More information regarding the case
Make note of all of the deadlines and court dates. Missing these things can make the entire situation so much worse.
Your court summons will tell you which jurisdiction is handling your case. Baton Rouge is in the middle district of Louisiana. The summons will tell you what day and time to arrive at that specific courthouse.
Showing up to your court dates can keep you out of jail and released on your own recognizance (even if you have an existing criminal record). This is possible by showing the court that you aren’t the same person who had trouble with the law in the past.
Speak With an Attorney
You may think that you don’t need a lawyer if you are innocent of the charges being brought against you. However, the legal system may be difficult to navigate without the help of an experienced professional. For more serious matters, you may find yourself needing legal assistance.
Your attorney will understand the entire court summons process and can make it easier for you to understand. They will be able to break down what you are being charged for and what the consequences of these crimes are.
If you are found guilty of the charges, your criminal defense attorney can plead your case for you and potentially get you a lower conviction or reduced sentence if you get convicted.
Your attorney will be able to portray you in a new light. They will be able to highlight your character and achievements to show that you are not the same person you were when you were partaking in criminal behaviors in your past.
Make an Appearance in Court
Not only can missing your court date cause you to lose your case, but it will also cause you to miss out on pertinent information. At the court hearing, you will learn more about the charges against you. Once you plead non-guilty, the trial will move forward and you will have a chance to explain yourself.
The conditions for your release will be set at this hearing. If you don’t show up, the judge will warrant your arrest. If you do, you’ll be more likely to get released on your own recognizance so that you can prepare for the trial from the comfort of your own home.
If you do miss the court date, you find more information about a warrant for your arrest through the Sheriff’s Office website.
Should You Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?
If you received a court summons, do not wait to take action. As soon as you get it, read it in its entirety. If there is anything on the summons that you don’t understand, reach out to the courthouse or to your attorney to see if they can provide you with more information.
Hiring a defense attorney as soon as you receive a court summons can make a world of difference in the outcome of your case, especially if you have no personal experience being on the wrong side of the law. You don’t have to be a criminal to find yourself in this position.
Contact Carl Barkemeyer, Criminal Defense Attorney today to get started on your legal consultation in Baton Rouge.