What Should Be on a Summons?

Updated: May 11





Ok let's deal with one thing right away: the “time” when the offence took place (ie 2am, 4pm etc) never appears on a summons or charge sheet.

I’m just saying that because people point to this all the time as if that was some “technicality”.

I'm sorry to say that it isn't.


Now that’s out of the way let's get to what actually appears on a summons.

First of all is your name and address, as well as where the alleged offence is supposed to have taken place.

It also includes the date when the offence has taken place.

Also, the registration number of the car you were supposed to be driving, if a car was involved.


In truth the Gardai almost never let a case go statute barred.
They don’t do this because if an individual Garda did, they would have to explain internally why they allowed this to happen.

But it never contains the time.


The prosecuting Garda’s name is included as well as the date, time and place where you must appear in court.

This part will be written in capital letters in bold type in the middle of the summons, so you can't miss it.

If the offence is a road traffic, the summons will also have a requirement to bring your driver's licence or learner permit to court.

Again, this is written in capital letters in bold type (towards the bottom).

It's important because it states that if you are convicted “the Judge will require you to produce your licence or permit”


Also included are some other details, like when the summons was applied for.

Offences are divided into two categories: summary or indictable.

Summary offences are regarded as minor offences. These include public order offences and most road traffic offences.

This means that the Gardai have 6 months from the date of the offence to apply for a summons.

Otherwise, it is statute barred.

That’s for summary offences only.


In truth the Gardai almost never let a case go statute barred.

They don’t do this because if an individual Garda did, they would have to explain internally why they allowed this to happen.

Potential disciplinary sanctions are handed out to those Gardai who let one of their cases go statute barred.

So, they very rarely let this happen, maybe 2-3% of cases, if that.

And certainly not for serious offences.


For indicatable offences there is no time limit.

They could potentially apply for summonses years after the event, but unless the offence is very serious or complicated (e.g. murder, sexual offences) they would have to give a reasonable explanation to the Court as to why it took them so long to prosecute someone.

The reason usually given is that the defendant had moved address one or more times and it was difficult to find them.

Once the summons has been properly applied for it’s then issued by the court service and sent to the local Garda station for service.

Bear in mind though, COVID caused enormous delays in the court system and tens of thousands of summonses were not applied for while the country was figuring out how the courts would function, or even if they would stay open at all.

Approximately 100,000 summonses from 2020 were shoved into 2021.


So don't be surprised if some issue from 2019 has only now arrived at your door.

Some people have told me that once they hadn't received a summons after a few months that they thought the Gardai “had forgotten about it”.

Obviously not.


But at least now you know why.

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