What is the difference between a warrant and a summons

What is the difference between a warrant and a summons?

In criminal law, there are two basic ways that a person is informed of the charges against him or her and is brought to court to answer those charges – either via Summons or Warrant.


The first way is one that is familiar to anyone who has received a traffic ticket. Few people receiving a minor traffic ticket are physically arrested. Instead of arrest, the police officer issues a ticket or citation that informs the person what they are charged with and when they must appear in court to answer the charge. The portion of the ticket, usually at the bottom, is called a summons. The summons gives the name and address of the court and the initial hearing date and time for appearance. If the offense is subject to waiver, the person may plead guilty and pay the fine prior to the hearing in the summons. If the offense is not waivable, then a personal appearance in court is required.


If you receive a summons and do not appear in court, you will become familiar with the second way people are brought to court on criminal charges: a warrant will be issued for your arrest.


An arrest warrant is a court order for law enforcement to arrest a person and bring them before the court to answer the charge. If there is time before the court hearing, the person arrested may post a bond to ensure their appearance. For minor offenses, the amount of the bond may be set by a court-approved schedule or the court may set the bond in the warrant itself.

Thomas D. White

Senior Partner

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