What to Do if You Receive a Criminal Summons in Pennsylvania
Once a criminal complaint is filed against you, you’ll likely receive a criminal summons requesting you to appear in court in the following days. This shouldn’t be taken lightly, and knowing how to navigate the Pennsylvania criminal process could protect your rights.
Have you received a criminal summons in Allegheny County or elsewhere in Western Pennsylvania? Our Pennsylvania criminal defense attorneys can help. Schedule a FREE consultation by calling (412) 281-2146 or filling out our online form.
Carefully Review Your Criminal Summons
The summons includes the date, time, and place you must appear in court. Take note of this information to ensure you don’t miss your court date and have time to retain the legal support you need.
Attached to your summons will be a copy of the official criminal complaint, which details your charges and includes an affidavit of probable cause explaining the reasoning behind them. This will help you understand why the summons was issued to better prepare your defense.
Contact a Local Criminal Defense Attorney Immediately
Although the court typically mails a summons to those accused of low-level offenses and misdemeanors, that doesn’t mean you should go through the criminal process alone. A Pittsburgh criminal attorney could explain your charges, rights, and defense options.
With a solid defense strategy, your attorney could negotiate with the prosecution to have evidence dismissed before trial or help you avoid trial altogether.
Attend the Preliminary Hearing
At the preliminary hearing, your attorney can cross-examine witnesses, present evidence supporting your case, and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. Defendants have the right to waive their preliminary hearing, which means their case proceeds to the Court of Common Pleas.
Although you have this right, attending your preliminary hearing with an attorney gives you a chance to dismiss your charges. If you choose to ignore your summons and fail to appear in court, this might result in a warrant for your arrest.
Criminal Summons FAQs
Here are some answers to your most frequently asked questions:
What Is a Summons in Pennsylvania?
A summons – also called a “court order” – is a document issued by the court, usually at the beginning of a civil lawsuit or a criminal proceeding. You do not have to be a plaintiff or a defendant to receive a summons.
People who are a party involved in a case may receive a summons simply to provide information in a case. For example, you might be called by the prosecution, the defense, or the court itself to give information in a personal appearance.
Do I Have to Go to Court If I Get a Summons in Pennsylvania?
You might have to go to court if you receive a criminal summons. However, there are a few exceptions to this requirement. You might be able to have your attorney appear in court on your behalf, depending on your situation.
Also, as stated above, you have the option to waive your preliminary hearing to have your case move forward to the Court of Common Pleas. You should speak with your attorney to find out if you’re eligible to not appear in court.
Is a Subpoena Different from a Summons?
Although the court issues both documents, a subpoena is different from a summons:
- A subpoena is a demand for you to provide evidence in a court case, either in the form of turning over physical evidence, giving testimony, or both. They are typically issued during the investigation or discovery process. Both defendants and witnesses can be subpoenaed.
- A summons is typically issued at the beginning of a case. For example, in civil cases, it is the start of a lawsuit. For criminal matters, the state uses a summons to initiate a criminal case against an individual.
Did You Receive a Criminal Summons? Call Us Today
After you receive your summons, you have at least 20 days until your preliminary hearing. You must take advantage of this time by retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney to help your case.
The attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, know how to navigate the legal system and won’t force you to accept a plea deal. Contact our office today at (412) 281-2146 to schedule a free consultation.