Common Courtesy in the Criminal Justice SystemComments Off
(Susan Kuo) I’ve been reading up about courtesy summonses — a topic of interest among some lawyers in my state. In South Carolina, “a person charged with any misdemeanor offense requiring a warrant signed by nonlaw enforcement personnel to ensure the arrest of a person must be given a courtesy summons.” (If you want to take a gander at it, it’s here on page 4, Section 22-5-110, and here, Section 22-5-115.) A courtesy summons is issued by a magistrate or municipal judge in lieu of an arrest warrant and is based on an affidavit sworn out by a person who is not an investigating law enforcement officer. The affidavit must establish probable cause to believe that the recipient of the summons committed the misdemeanor. These summonses enlighten He-Who-Is-Summoned about the charges, but cannot be used to execute an arrest. He-Who-Shall-Not -Be-Arrested may then be tried. If convicted, he will be arrested and booked. If he is found not guilty, he sidesteps the arrest and booking process and heads on home.
From what I can tell, a courtesy summons is a nice way to tell someone that he has wronged you in a non-felonious, albeit criminal, way. Southerners are, if nothing else, very polite.