Q: Do I have to appear in court?
If you are a defendant in a criminal case, then yes.
If you are victim/witness in a criminal case, probably yes, but you will have to discuss with the district attorney as to whether your presence is required.
If you are the plaintiff in a civil case, then yes, or you will risk dismissal of your lawsuit.
If you are a defendant in a civil case, the answer is it depends on who is suing you and what for. If its something like a credit card which you owe and have no valid defenses to, then think of the summons as an invitation to come to court. If you don't answer, then a judgment will be entered against you but your appearance is not required. If its for something else, then you do need to show up if you have any defenses or counterclaims that you want to argue. If you don't show up, the plaintiff will probably get whatever is sought in the lawsuit and judgment will be entered.
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