||Magistrates and Municipal Judges
||July 6, 2006
Code § 22-5-115 authorizes the use of a courtesy summons, a criminal charging document to be used where a citizen, rather than a law enforcement officer, requests the arrest of a person for allegedly committing a summary court level offense. The statute does not allow for a custodial arrest when serving the courtesy summons. The individual must be given a court date by the law enforcement officer serving the document and allowed to proceed. This Office has developed the following procedure for you to follow when utilizing these documents. Please contact this Office should you have questions.
Courtesy Summons Procedure
|1.||Courtesy summons (SCCA 519), authorized by Code Section 22-5-115, is issued in lieu of
arrest warrant when affiant is not a law enforcement officer
investigating the case. If law enforcement officer serves as affiant, arrest
warrant must be used.
|2.||Only offenses within the jurisdiction
of magistrate and municipal court (currently $500, 30 days, or both) may
be written on a courtesy summons. General Sessions charges must be written on an arrest warrant.
|3.||Affiant must provide sworn statement
establishing probable cause that the alleged crime was committed by the
defendant. Summary court judge undergoes same analysis as if
determining whether to issue an arrest warrant.
|4.||Courtesy summons must be approved by
Attorney General (approved December 22, 2005) and must contain the
|a)||an affidavit that establishes probable cause;
|b)||a description of the charges against the
|c)||the date, time, and place of the trial;
|d)||the name of the issuing officer;
|e)||the defendant's and affiant's name, address, and
|f)||the date and location of the incident; and
|g)||notice that the defendant may be tried in his
absence or a bench warrant may be issued for his arrest.
|5.|| Law enforcement must serve
courtesy summons personally upon defendant.
|6.||Courtesy summons may not be used for custodial arrest. Upon service,
defendant must be given a court date and allowed to proceed without
being placed into custody.
|7.||Court in each jurisdiction must set
predetermined date(s) each month for disposal of cases charged on
|8.||Law enforcement serving courtesy
summons should be given several courtesy summons trial dates in advance
of service. Service officer must write date of trial on courtesy
summons upon service, giving defendant at least 10 days
notice prior to trial.
|9.||Defendant may request a bench trial
or jury trial. Standard of proof at trial is "beyond a reasonable
|10.|| If defendant is convicted at
trial, defendant must be booked so that the criminal disposition may be
forwarded to SLED. Booking may take place at the site of trial or
at a law enforcement/detention facility. If defendant fails to
comply with booking procedures, a bench warrant may be issued for
|11.||If defendant is found not guilty at
trial, defendant is free to go without undergoing the booking process.
|12.||If defendant fails to appear at
trial, he may be tried in his absence and, if convicted, a bench warrant
shall be issued for defendant’s arrest. At this point in the
criminal proceeding, a custodial arrest is warranted. If the court
has an accurate mailing address for the defendant, it may be prudent to
send the defendant a letter prior to issuing the bench warrant notifying
him of the consequences of his failure to appear and allowing him a
certain amount of time to willingly surrender to the court.
|13.||The courtesy summons is a numbered,
three part form consisting of a copy for the court, a copy for the
defendant, and an audit copy. These documents may also be
generated locally by computer. The computer-generated courtesy
summons must be identical to SCCA 519 and approved by this Office prior to its
use. Upon approval, groups of numbers will be given to the requesting party
for the computer-generated courtesy summons. The numbers are identical to
warrant numbers accept the sequence of numbers is followed by “CS” to
differentiate it from an arrest warrant.
|14.||Prior to using courtesy summons, we would strongly recommend meeting with local law enforcement to develop a coordinated plan to implement this procedure.|