"I understand that good people sometimes find themselves in bad situations."

I Received a Criminal Summons What Happens Now?

by Aaron M. Black • September 23, 2020

A summons is used for different purposes in Arizona law ranging from a compulsory invitation to jury duty to notification that an alleged criminal offense has been charged. Summons are also used in civil lawsuits over money.

A summons is a judge’s order requiring your presence in court. The summons, which must be signed by a judge, provides the name of the court that’s ordering your appearance, the name of the person receiving the summons, along with other identifying information.


The reasons for the summons is to tell you (1) that you have been charged with a specific criminal offense, (2) the case number assigned by the court, (3) the time and date you need to be in a particular courtroom, and (4) if the victim’s bill of rights should be applied.

A short list of victim’s rights include being informed if the defendant is released or escapes, to be present and heard at proceedings involving a post-release, a negotiated plea, sentencing, and to read pre-sentencing reports that are available to the defendant, and to refuse sitting for an interview with the defendant or the defendant’s lawyer.

Certified mail service for a summons

For defendants who are not in custody, the summons is sent to their residences by standard first class mail.

If you moved and did not update your address, you will miss the appointed time and date that you needed to appear before a judge. The court will issue a warrant for your arrest.

Arizona law allows issuing a summons for defendants who were charged in Arizona but have since left the state.

A summons is different from a subpoena. A subpoena is used to compel people to testify as a witness in a case or to provide evidence that is in the person’s possession.

If you have not yet been arrested, the summons mailed to you demands that you appear in court for an “initial appearance.” That date is set within 30 days of receiving the summons.

The initial appearance

This is the first time you will be in court standing before a judge. During this appearance you will be officially informed about the criminal allegations against you. You will also be advised of your right to have an attorney representing you or that one will be appointed for you.

The conditions of your release are established, such as posting a bail bond or returning to court on your promise to appear, which is called on your “own recognizance,” or if you need to be held in custody for the safety of the community.

A judge will set the next date in court no longer than 30 days for your arraignment on the charges.

Basis for issuing a summons

Prosecutors review the work accomplished by a police investigation and decide if sufficient evidence exists to issue a complaint, which details the alleged criminal offense. The complaint is a sworn statement.

The prosecution has a second route, an indictment by a grand jury. The grand jury members are summoned to serve for a few months as grand jurors. This avenue is most often used for serious felony crimes, including sex crimes, and to avoid alerting the potential defendant to prevent the suspect from fleeing from the law.

The prosecution presents its evidence during a secret session of the grand jury. A certain majority of the grand jurors vote to issue a “True Bill” showing that there’s sufficient probable cause to issue an indictment. The indictment can be served upon the defendant in person or by certified mail.

Honoring a summons in the pandemic

Maricopa County Superior Courts are operating under the CDC’s guidelines with participants wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Most hearings are being held remotely while others are being rescheduled.

Virtual hearings using an Interactive Audiovisual System including GoToMeeting are being conducted. The hearings are limited to judicial officers, attorneys, defendants and witnesses. Family members, friends and observers will not be admitted. If you are ill or have been exposed to the virus, contact your defense attorney to reschedule your court appearance.

Establishing your defense

Getting a summons in the mail is a shock. Although a summons can give you up to 30 days before going to court, that time could be much shorter, so it is important that you begin your defense quickly after receiving the summons.

Your defense attorney will study the complaint against you for errors of fact, law or procedure in launching an independent investigation of the case. The defense’s investigation will challenge the state’s evidence and the procedures used in obtaining evidence, and work to develop information and evidence that is favorable to you that the state failed to develop or ignored.

Confidential legal consultation

Upon receiving a summons, do not wait to schedule a case review.

To arrange for your consultation call my mobile phone or text at 480-729-1683 at any time, day or night, weekends and holidays. Or use my easy contact form on my Aaron M. Black website.

I have broad experience defending felony and misdemeanor criminal cases. I aggressively attack the state’s case while providing you with personal service. You can always reach me and you’ll never be handed off to an assistant.

We can meet on FaceTIme, communicate by texting and/or email.

I defend criminal charges in Maricopa County and its surrounding counties in justice, municipal, state and federal courts.


Available by phone, text and/or email

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to inform clients and potential clients I am still available for consultations. I am always available by phone, text and/or email. We can also use Facetime for social distancing. The criminal justice system is not stopping due to COVID-19.

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