Imagine a stranger rushing up to ring your doorbell or coming to your office with court filings that he or she must get to you directly, and in person. If this ever happens to you, it probably means you are being served legal process. You will probably be a little frightened and as if you're being hunted, but the truth is that you have a constitutional right to these documents as part of the due process guarantee. Whether these documents are related to civil or criminal matters or issues large or small, you need to read them carefully.
We would like to cover some of the types of court filings you can be served in a little more detail in our hopes of easing your anxieties.
States have different rules for who can serve process, but it's best if the opposing party has hired a professional like those at divorce lawyer Provo UT to do the job. These people will understand all the legal rules and ramifications, particularly about things like stalking and trespassing, so they can ensure that both the rights of the recipient and the responsibilities of the plaintiff or prosecutor are attended to.
Let's take a look at the major categories of court filings you could get from a constable:
Administrative Summons: These come from the federal tax collectors at IRS and are part of making sure everyone gives their fair share according to the tax laws. These administrative orders require the person being served appear before a federal tax examiner and have in hand documentation. This is usually the last step in an IRS investigation.
Citation: These specific summons are given, most often, by law enforcement, so aren't technically process serving. The most common citations, including those for traffic violations, generally require that you respond in court or pay fines by a future date. Accepting one of these is not saying you're guilty but, rather, a pledge that you will show up. Failure to do so can mean immediate findings of guilt and exponential fines and court fees.
Civil Summons: This legal call to court includes a specific time when you should go before the judge. It is separate from a simple complaint informing you of the lawsuit. These can be process served in many kinds of civil cases, including family law ones.
Complaints: A complaint is a kind of court filing, usually civil, and is the first filed in a case. If you are served with a complaint, it means you are the defendant in a lawsuit. Criminal complaints are more serious than citations but often less grave than indictments.
Indictments: These criminal filings come after a grand jury, led by a prosecutor, gathers to weigh evidence in a potential felony case against you. A grand jury, like a regular jury, is made up of peers but the proceedings aresecret. This special group decides whether the prosecution has enough evidence against you to charge you with a crime. Without one of these decisions, the most serious crimes, such a murders, cannot be prosecuted. Indictments will be handed to you or your legal representative.
Petitions: This kind legal filing begins a case, but asks for non-monetary or equitable relief These can also be handed out in court cases such as those regarding child custody and probate of will.
Small Claims Summons: Cases in which the amount of money at issue is small generally come from small claims court as complaints. These generally force you to pay the debt or to appear before the court. If you don't show up, you will likely have a credit judgment against you.
Subpoenas: These fall under separate rules from complaints and usually have to be sent by a court clerk. They are a type of summons, but they require you to appear as a witness, require you to present documents such as designated records, books, papers, documents, or tangible things or require you to attend a deposition. These are often served between attorneys rather than to you in person, but not responding can mean contempt charges or a loss of your case.
Summons: Whether between you and another party or between you and the police, a summons is an order for you to appear in a court. These should always give a specific date and time to appear. If you don't , you can either lose the case immediately or face contempt charges.
The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, like the constitutional documents of many other countries around the world, protect citizens by guaranteeing due process in legal matters. That means everyone is entitled to a chance to make their case. Professional process service is vital to this civil guarantee and, when done properly, can make the lawsuit easier for everyone.