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Definition - What does Appearance mean?

An appearance is considered the formal proceeding for a defendant to submit to the jurisdiction of the court.

What is a personal injury summons?

After a personal injury, if the plaintiff decides to file a lawsuit against the defendant, they will need to draft a complaint. Once the complaint is filed with the court, the plaintiff must serve the complaint to the defendant.

The personal injury summons will outline who are the plaintiff and the defendant in a civil case and the date and time of the court hearing. The summons will also outline the nature of the claim, the injuries suffered by the plaintiff, each instance of negligence alleged against the defendant, and the relief sought by the plaintiff.

After the complaint is served the defendant is responsible for providing an answer to the complaint. This can include a motion to dismiss and legal arguments against the complaint. In many cases, the defendant may also be issued a summons, which is a notice for a defendant to appear in court to respond to a complaint.

Failure to appear in court may allow the judge to rule in favor of the plaintiff. 

When Do I have to appear in court?

Individuals accused of a criminal charge such as assault, murder, or harassment will always have to appear in court. These criminal cases will then follow a standard procedure: initial appearance, arraignment, trial, and sentencing.

Traffic infractions may also require court appearances. For example, if a driver has been charge with DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, driving under a suspended license, or a third moving violation in a one-year period, they may also have to appear in court.

Civil cases, which are legal disagreements between individuals, corporations, or businesses, however, may not require claimants to appear in court.

For civil cases the plaintiff will file a complaint or petition with the court. The copy of the complaint is sent to the defendant and the defendant must answer the complaint. After information is shared about the case, through the discovery process, the case may either be settled or it will proceed to court. If the case goes to court each side will have a chance to argue their case and the jury or judge will render a civil verdict.

First criminal court appearance

As mentioned above, if a defendant has been charged with a crime they will have to appear in court. The purpose of this first court appearance is to notify the defendant of their legal rights. The first appearance in court should occur without delay after the initial arrest, reducing the chance that the police will use coercive tactics to solicit improper confessions.

In some courts the initial appearance may be combined with the arraignment, and the judge may formally read the charges against defendant. If the charges are read, the defendant may have the opportunity to enter a plea.

What are my rights at my appearance?

The defendant’s rights may vary depending on whether they have been charged with a felony or misdemeanor. For example, felony charges allow you to have the right to have a lawyer appointed to defend you (if you cannot afford to hire one).

Other criminal defendants also must be notified of their rights, which can include their right to speak with a lawyer, the right to avoid self-incrimination, the right to have the criminal charges against them clarified, and the right to a preliminary hearing. The judge may also notify the defendants of their right to pre-trial release.

For example, if there is no warrant for the defendant’s arrest the judge will have to decide if there was probable cause for the arrest. If the judge determines there was not probable cause, he can release the defendant. If there was a warrant or probable cause for the arrest,  the judge will decide if the defendant should be released on bail and what amount will be required.



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