A summons is a court-issued order directing a criminal suspect to appear for criminal proceedings against him on a certain date. According to Rule 6 of the Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure:

A defendant not under arrest or otherwise in custody shall…be notified of the criminal proceedings against him and of the date of the return day by means of a summons. A copy of the complaint or indictment shall accompany the summons.

Such ordered are often issued by the court for less serious offenses when an arrest warrant is deemed unnecessary.

The summons must recite “the substance of the offense charged in the complaint or indictment” against him as well as state when and where the defendant is supposed to appear for arraignment. It will also direct the defendant to report to the assigned court’s probation office on or before his day of appearance.

The summons is typically served by the police and failure to comply with the summons will most likely result in a warrant being issued for the defendant’s arrest.