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What is a Criminal Summons in NC

Criminal Summons

How criminal charges in Charlotte are instituted and processed has changed tremendously in recent years. In the past you may have been arrested and taken to the Mecklenburg County Jail, with all that entails.

Now, in certain circumstances, instead of getting arrested, a criminal summons may be issued by a Magistrate. That can even happen with very serious offenses.

“When you’re not arrested, you may not realize the severity of charges. That can be a real problem in the long run.”

– Bill Powers, Criminal Lawyer Charlotte NC

Rather than an arrest and posting bond for felony or misdemeanor charges, you may have been “served” with a summons to appear in criminal court.

What is a Criminal Summons?

In simple terms, it’s a formal notice of criminal charges. You are “summonsed” to appear in Court on a designated date and time.

As a practical matter, a criminal summons is very similar to a Warrant for Arrest. Sometimes people also refer to that as an Arrest Warrant.

An arrest warrant gives a brief, basic statement of the criminal charge or charges you now face. It also orders law enforcement to arrest the accused (the defendant in North Carolina).

Criminal Summons Increasingly Common in Mecklenburg County

The specifics of what is required in a Warrant for Arrest in NC may be found in North Carolina General Statute Chapter 15A (the Criminal Procedure Act in NC). See N.C.G.S. 15A-304 here.

A criminal summons in North Carolina also describes the alleged offense (the crime) or criminal infraction. Instead of instructing law enforcement to arrest the accused and take them to jail, a criminal summons Orders you to appear in court and answer the charges against you.

Learn more about a Criminal Summons and what is required under N.C.G.S. 15A-303. Download a sample NC Criminal Summons here.

Both an Arrest Warrant and Criminal Summons in NC must be based on a finding of Probable Cause by an independent judicial official. That is part of your 4th Amendment Rights that requires in part, “…no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause.”

What is Required in a Criminal Summons?
  • Statement of the Infraction or Crime
    • Basic Recitation of Allegations
    • Sufficient to Identify the Crime or Infraction
  • Requirement of a Finding of Probable Cause to charge with a criminal offense
    • Same legal standard as is required under the NC Criminal Laws for an Arrest Warrant / Warrant for Arrest
  • Order to Appear in Criminal Court
    • Designated Date, Time, Courthouse Location and place to Appear
    • Court Date must be set within one month of issuance or re-issuance of the Criminal Summons
      • May be longer than one month “for cause”
  • Notice of possibility of Contempt of Court for FTA Failure to Appear
  • Criminal Summons may be issued by any party authorized to issue a Warrant for Arrest in North Carolina
What Should I do if I was Served with a Criminal Summons? Criminal Summons

Good news. You’re already doing it. Researching what is a criminal summons in NC is an important first step.

The next thing to do is talk with a criminal defense lawyer. We provide a FREE LEGAL CONSULTATION and will explain in greater detail the how the legal system works, the best and worst-case scenarios, and the appropriate way to address the allegations.

OFA Order for Arrest and Warrants in Charlotte

“It doesn’t matter if you have a misdemeanor or felony, it makes sense to talk to a defense attorney. The District Attorney’s Office in Charlotte takes allegations seriously. You should too.”

– Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorney, Bill Powers

Once legal process is issued, you face all the same consequences of a conviction if you plead guilty or are convicted after a trial. Even if you weren’t arrested from the outset, that does NOT mean the case is any less serious.

The same sentencing guidelines apply. If a jail sentence or prison term was possible following an arrest, that same jail sentence or prison term remains a possibility after a Criminal Summons.

There is no difference to the consequences of a criminal conviction. Your name and reputation are important.

You should protect your criminal record, keeping it as clean as possible. If there is a legal basis or other deferral program available to get your charges dismissed (like deferred prosecution, 15A conditional discharge, or other option for a dismissal), you should look into that.

Each case is different. It would be a mistake to assume you are entitled to a dismissal of charges or that the DA will dismiss the case because you’re a good person. Talk to a criminal lawyer without delay to discuss your case.

OFA Order for Arrest and Criminal Summons

FTA Failure to Appear as directed pursuant to a valid Criminal Summons in North Carolina may result in the issuance of another Order. Under N.C.G.A. 15A-305 an OFA (Order for Arrest) may be issued per § 15A-305(3).

Powers Law Firm – Criminal Defense Lawyers in Charlotte NC

If you have questions about your pending legal matter in Mecklenburg County, give us a ring. We’re here to help.

We also provide legal representation for criminal charges in Union County NC (Monroe), Gaston County (Gastonia Criminal Court), Iredell County (Statesville and Mooresville NC), or Rowan County in Salisbury, North Carolina, call Bill Powers at 704-342-4357. You may also reach Bill Powers by email at:Bill@CarolinaAttorneys.com

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I am so fortunate to have had Bill Powers on my case. Upon our first meeting, Bill insisted that through the emotions of anger, sadness, confusion, and betrayal that I remain resilient. He was available to answer questions with researched, logical, truthful answers throughout our two year stretch together... J.R.
Bill Powers and his firm were a true blessing. If anyone is contacting an attorney, it's more than likely not from a positive life experience. If there was a rating for "bedside manner" for lawyers he'd get a 10/10 for that as well. The entire staff were helpful... K.C.
Bill Powers’ staff has handled several traffic citations for me over the years, and they exceeded my expectations each and every time. Would highly recommend anyone faced with a traffic citation or court case contact his office and they will handle it from there. M.C.
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