Issuing a Court Summons

What is a court summons?

A summons, also known as a claim form, is a document created by the plaintiff and issued by the court notifying the defendant that they are being sued or are required to appear in court. 

How is a court summons delivered?

A court summons is usually delivered by a process server or sheriff, offering defendants a set amount of time in which they must be in court. It is important to never ignore a court summons. They will trace the person to an exact address, place of work, or location, to serve the summons.


What are the types of court summons?

Essentially, there are three distinct varieties of court summonses. These are civil, criminal, and administrative summonses.

  • Civil summonses

A civil summons is a summons given to an individual or entity telling them there has been civil action taken against them, and they are to appear in court to address the allegations. A civil summons must adhere to the court's civil court norms of procedure. Civil summonses include:

  1. Claims for money owed / debt claims
  2. Injunctions
  3. Breach of contract lawsuits
  4. Infringement of intellectual property lawsuits

A civil summons must adhere to the court's civil court norms of procedure. Sometimes, a civil summons is accompanied by an official complaint, like a petition.


  • Criminal summonses

A criminal summons orders someone to appear in criminal court, identified as the defendant. Criminal summonses notify the defendant of the charges set against them. They incorporate a wide range of criminal offences, and are typically issued for cases like:

  1. Traffic cases
    1. Driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs (DUI)
    2. Speeding
    3. Parking violations
  2. Physical or sexual assault
  3. Robbery
  4. Trespassing

These are judicial summonses. The criminal summons filed against you will include the nature of the charges brought against you and the criminal court to which you have been summoned.


  • Administrative summonses

An administrative summons is another type of judicial summons. These summonses are issued by specific administrative bodies that specialise in the particular type of summons a defendant receives. These different administrative bodies include but aren’t limited to:

  1. Labour courts
  2. Tax courts
  3. Immigration courts

Each administrative court is responsible for issuing their respective summonses.

Other types of summonses include a jury summons, which identifies you as a potential juror on a criminal case. While jury duty is not obligatory, these summonses also cannot be ignored.

Another summons is a witness summons. Usually, witnesses appear in court voluntarily. Sometimes, though, courts can summon a witness to attend a trial to provide their perspective or act as evidence.


Why would you receive a court summons?

You would receive a summons if you’re required in court. A summons is the law’s way of letting you know that you need to appear in court. This could be for a number of aforementioned cases.

If you’re being sued, you’d receive a civil summons.  If you’ve been accused of a crime, you should expect a criminal summons, and if you’re needed by a specific court, you would receive an administrative summons.

You could also receive a summons if you’ve been requested for jury duty or as a witness to a trial. While this is not obligatory, you still have to respond to the summons by showing up in court within the given timeframe.

Court Summons are delivered by Process Servers like Vilcol

Court summons procedure

If you’re needed in court, you’ll have your summons either delivered to you by hand or through a tracked package. This can take up to six months. Your summons lets you know clearly what type it is and why you're needed. Civil summonses tell you who the plaintiff is and what they’re accusing you of as well.

The summons will have the address of the court you need to attend and your deadline to attend. Make sure you go to court before the deadline, but attending ASAP is best.

It’s strongly advised to contact your lawyer when you receive a summons.


What happens if you can’t appear in court within the allotted time?

If you can’t appear in court within the time you’ve been given, you need to let the court know. It is not illegal to miss the deadline in many cases, but if you do so, your case is at risk of receiving a default judgement.

If you’re out of town or otherwise too busy to attend court, contact the court listed on your summons and politely ask for a time extension. Make sure that you set one that works for your schedule and attend the court as soon as you can.

It is illegal to miss your deadline of most criminal summonses. If you do this, you could be arrested. So make sure you respect the deadline of your summons, and contact the court if you can’t attend in time.


Can you receive a court summons without being charged?

Yes! A court summons doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve been charged for a crime. Sometimes civil summonses are accompanied by official complaints, but these aren’t charges within themselves.

A criminal summons often informs the defendant what they’ve been charged with, but not always. Charges are given through separate charge sheets.


What is Vilcol’s role?

At Vilcol, we are one of the UK’s most experienced Process Servers and People Tracing Agents. We use our specialist knowledge and expertise in tracing people to locate summons recipients, anywhere in the UK.

With over 30 years of experience and a success rate of 98%, our quality of work is undeniable. When a court writes a summons for someone, they need our help to find that person. We trace them and deliver the summons to them, making the summons procedure easy and efficient. We keep the UK’s summons system running smoothly.