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What Is a Summons and How Is It Different Than a Subpoena?

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Are you wondering what is a summons is? Trying to figure out how it differs from a subpoena?

Well, you’re in the right place. Considering that both documents are quite similar, it’s best to get in-depth and approach the question with tangible information. 

In this article, we will cover exactly what a summons is, and what a subpoena is. 

Keep reading to also find out what happens if you ignore either.

What Is A Summons?

The official notice for a lawsuit is called a summons. It is delivered to a person who is being sued. The reason is quite simple, if you have a lawsuit filed against you – you have the right to know about it. 

It is required by the laws of the state to provide a summons to a defendant, in order for the case to be filed properly.

Anytime a party files a lawsuit against another party, they must give them a summons. The formal process of giving the summons to come to court is called the service of process. Each defendant has to get a separate summons. And you as the suing party cannot serve notice. 

Here are three ways a summons can be served:

  1. Via sheriff
  2. Via private process services
  3. Via certified mail (in some cases)

Service via sheriff is an easier way to serve a summons. You simply pay a fee to the sheriff’s office, unless you have a court order to waive the fee.

You will need the original and two copies with the lawsuit complaint attached to all documents. The sheriff will serve the summons to the person listed on the document. They can also give it to a party within the residence over the age of 13.

Usually, a sheriff will try to serve a summons once. If the defendant is not there, you will have to use a private process. You have to ask the course to use a private process server. For this, you file a motion for appointed with a special server.  

This person has to be at least 18 years of age and not related to the lawsuit. In most cases, such servers are private investigators. The person can serve the defendant after the judge has given their approval. After the summons has been served, the private process server will complete an affidavit and notarize it. The court has to have a record of the summons being given.

Last, you can deliver summons via certified mail. This is usually done in small claims cases. It is not required to have other people to serve a defendant. You can have all documents delivered via mail.

However, in all cases, a summons can be improperly served. If this did happen, it is recommended to go to court on the date of the summons and inform the judge of the summons being served in an inappropriate manner. The judge should not proceed with the case until you have been properly served. The judge will not dismiss the case, but he will enforce the plaintiff to serve you again.

What Is A Subpoena?

A court order that may require a party to go to court, deposition, or evidence proposition is called a subpoena. The subpoena also has to be served on the person.

Subpoenas are necessary because a witness to a crime might not want to testify in court. Then you can issue a subpoena for a witness, and require them to come to court under the law. A subpoena can be used during discovery. The process in which both sides to the case discover information and evidence in preparation for the case. 

It is during this period of time that you can subpoena a person to attend a hearing or deposition. You can also subpoena to acquire evidence from a person who is not being sued.

In general, you can subpoena a person by getting a form from the office clerk. You fill in the blank, such as the case name, contact information for witnesses, and the courtroom for the case. When a witness has been subpoenaed, you have to pay them a witness fee and cover their costs of travel. The clerk of the court should be able to help you determine the amount. 

At this point, unlike a summons – any adult can serve the subpoena and payment to the witness. And it can also be given via certified mail.

What Happens If You Ignore a Subpoena or Summons?

Even though subpoena and summons are different, they should not be ignored. If you do get either, you should speak to a defense attorney. 

As mentioned, a summons is an invitation to come to court. It is not an order, therefore it is not necessary to follow through. But if you do ignore it, you can lose the case in front of the eyes of the court. When people don’t show up, the court decides the case against them. 

The court could also mandate that you pay a fine or cease to do something. You will have to adhere to the final decision, regardless of you going to court or not.

But you cannot ignore a summons citation to discover assets. If you lose a lawsuit and end up owing money and don’t pay it – you can get this citation. If you ignore this, you will face serious penalties.

A subpoena cannot be ignored. You are ordered to court – if you want to ignore the subpoena, the court will hold you in contempt. And they might issue a warrant for your arrest. 

You will face jail time, as well as a large fine. If you get a subpoena and don’t want to go, talk to a defense attorney ASAP, but don’t ignore it.

The Difference To An End

Now that you know what is a summons, and what is a subpoena. You can safely presume their differences, and react to them in an appropriate manner. 

When it comes down to the most important difference, one requires you to come to court, the other does not. With a subpoena – you are required to show up. With a summons – you are invited to show up.

If you want to properly deal with a summons, get in touch with me (Carl Barkemeyer), a criminal defense attorney in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area.


Louisiana DWI & Criminal Lawyers

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Louisiana criminal lawyers and DWI attorneys at the Barkemeyer Law Firm providing legal defense services for clients in Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa, Port Allen, Alexandria, New Orleans, Lafayette, Metairie, Kenner, Gretna, Hahnville, Chalmette, Slidell, St. Tammany, St. Charles, St. John, St. Bernard, Mandeville, Covington, Shreveport, Bossier, Jefferson, and all of Louisiana.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is not formal legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

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