Types Of Summons: What Are The Different Types of Summons

Are there different types of summons?

A civil summons, criminal summons or administrative summons, what are they?

You may have heard of a summons and complaint, traffic summons or even a jury summons?

How many types of summons are there?

In this article, we will go over the types of summons so you will know exactly what’s out there.

Are you ready?

Let’s do this.

What is a summons

A summons is a notice given to someone letting them know that there is a complaint or lawsuit filed against them and they are required to appear in court to respond to the complaint.

In any type of legal proceeding, the plaintiff must notify the defendant that it has filed a lawsuit against that person.

As citizens, we are entitled to know that there’s a legal claim made against us so we can defend ourselves and exercise our right to be heard.

Often, the summons is served with the complaint or court application where the plaintiff outlines the facts and basis of his complaint.

Knowing that a summons is a legal notice for someone to appear in court, how many types of summons are there?

How many types of summons are there

There are essentially different types of summons grouped into three categories:

  1. Civil summons
  2. Criminal summons
  3. Administrative summons

Although there are many terms used to refer to a summons, they all fall into any of these three categories.

Type 1: Civil summons

A civil summons is a judicial summons given by one private person or entity to another private person or entity to appear in court and respond to a petition filed in court.

This type of summons informs the defendant that there is a civil action taken against it and they must show up in court to respond to the allegations.

Typically, a civil action involves a lawsuit claiming damages, compensation for a loss or injury or injunction to force someone to do or not to do something.

Some examples of a civil lawsuit are:

  1. Breach of contract lawsuits
  2. Injunction 
  3. Claim for money owed
  4. Intellectual property infringement 

The civil summons needs to respect the civil court rules of procedure of the court where the lawsuit has been filed.

Type 2: Criminal summons

A criminal summons is a type of judicial summons notifying someone to appear in a criminal court.

There are different types of summons issued in the context of criminal proceedings, some are issued by a peace officer or police and others by the prosecutor.

For example, a citation, traffic summons or notice to appear are all different types of summons in law related to a criminal-type of proceedings.

In some jurisdictions, a criminal proceeding may proceed by summary conviction, indictable offense or dual offenses. 

Criminal summons can be issue in cases like: 

  1. Trespassing 
  2. Armed robbery
  3. Assault 
  4. Murder 
  5. Driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI)

The criminal summons served to you will outline the nature of the accusations against you and the criminal court calling you.

Type 3:  Administrative summons 

Administrative summons is another type of judicial summons issued by an administrative body authorized in law to handle a specific type of investigation or legal matters.

For example, every jurisdiction will have a tax authority in charge of handling all matters related to taxes.

Your tax authority may have the power to issue a summons for you to appear and provide information related to your taxes.

Administrative summons can be issued by different types of administrative courts such as:

  1. Tax court
  2. Immigration court
  3. Labour courts
  4. Professional code 

Each administrative court will have the power to issue a summons in its own area of expertise.

Now that we’ve looked at the three types of summons categories, what are the types of summons that can be issued?

What are the types of summons

A civil court, criminal court or administrative court will have the power to issue a summons requiring you to appear before it and present a defense against allegations made against you.

We hear about different types of summons and it can get confusing.

We have listed the different types of court summons you can receive and we’ll explain each one in detail.

Court summons

What is a court summons?

A court summons is a notice sent by a court asking you to appear before it.

The term court summons is a general term used to refer to any type of summons issued by a court of any kind.

For example, you can say that you received a court summons whether it comes to you from a civil court, criminal court or an administrative court.

Civil summons

A civil summons is a more specific description of a type of court summons.

A civil summons specifically refers to the summons issued by a civil court.

When a plaintiff files a lawsuit against you or sues you in a civil court of law, it must send you a summons notifying you that a civil action has been filed.

Civil lawsuits are legal mechanisms to resolve a dispute between citizens.

Administrative summons

Administrative summons is a type of summons issued by an administrative court.

An administrative court is a specialized court handling very specific types of legal matters.

For example, you may have an immigration administrative court or environmental administrative court having powers in its own area of expertise to summon a person or company before it.

An administrative summons will specifically indicate which administrative court has issued the summons and how you must respond.

Criminal summons 

A criminal summons is a type of summons specifically related to criminal actions and criminal types of proceedings instituted against someone.

Depending on your jurisdiction, there may be different types of summons a criminal court can issue.

You can have a criminal court issue:

  1. A criminal summons
  2. A citation
  3. A notice to appear

Let’s look at each of these types of criminal summons.

Citation summons

A citation is a notice to appear before a criminal court for a relatively minor charge.

Typically, a citation is delivered by the police officer directly on the spot.

For example, if someone was not allowed to drink alcohol in the park, they may get a citation of such violation.

The police officers will issue the citation directly to the person spotted drinking in the park.

This is not as severe of a charge as an armed robbery, so a citation will be issued.

Notice to appear 

An appearance notice or notice to appear is a type of summons informing you that you must respond to criminal charges.

A notice to appear in some cases is issued before you are formally charged for a crime.

For example, if someone is caught shoplifting, the police will provide the person a notice to appear on the spot.

Later on, the police will present the shoplifting evidence to a prosecutor who will confirm the criminal charges.

Traffic summons 

A traffic summons is issued by the police for traffic violations.

Traffic laws establish rules intended to protect us and keep us safe on the roads.

Breaking traffic laws in some cases will lead to the issuance of a traffic summons.

For example, if you are caught for reckless driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you will receive a traffic summons which in reality is a criminal summons as these violation are often criminal in nature.

A traffic summons may not necessarily be for a severe criminal violation but a violation requiring you to appear in court and respond to the allegations against you.

Some other traffic violations do not lead to the issuance of a traffic summons such as parking tickets. 

In these cases, you get a ticket without being called to the court. 

Summons and complaint

A summons and complaint is not a different type of summons in itself but it is a civil lawsuit summons accompanied with the actual complaint or petition outlining the reasons of the lawsuit and claims against you.

When the summons and the complaint are served at the same time, we refer to this as the summons and complaint.

Jury summons

When you get a letter in the mail telling you that you are summoned to act as a potential juror, you have indeed received a jury summons.

In criminal cases, and in some jurisdictions even in civil cases, a case can be heard by a jury.

A jury is a group of ordinary citizens selected by the parties to a lawsuit to hear the case and render a verdict as instructed by the court.

The jury summons cannot be ignored. 

If you are not sure what to do, you should contact the court summoning you to appear as a potential juror.


In this article, we’ve looked at all you need to know about different types of summons.

A summons can be issued in civil cases, criminal cases or administrative cases.

When you receive a summons, you should make sure you read it carefully and appear in court on the day requested to present a defense against what is being asked from you.

No matter the type of summons you receive, a court is calling you to appear before it to answer to allegations raised against you.

Make sure you do what’s needed to avoid hurting your rights.

We hope you enjoyed this article.

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