Your Options for Appearing in Court
It's important to prepare for and attend your court dates if you are facing criminal charges. If you do not show up at your hearings, the judge can issue a bench warrant against you to compel you to go to court. Also, without going to court, your case can take longer to resolve, and your options may be limited.
Unfortunately, many people find it difficult to go on their court dates. Other commitments, like work and family, are sometimes more pressing. Many people ask us if we can appear in court on their behalf. They are willing to pay for the convenience of not having to take off work and disclose their charges to their employer. Similarly, those who are facing criminal charges in a different county may not want to travel to their court dates.
The good news is in some cases, an attorney may be able to appear on your behalf in court. There are many benefits to having legal representation when you are facing criminal charges, one of which is the ability for your attorney to handle some things for you. But there are limitations to what an attorney can do for you and whether he or she can appear in court on your behalf, and we'll review a few of them below.
When You Can Skip Court
Typically, the court may allow your attorney to appear on your behalf if you are facing most misdemeanor charges. Your attorney can appear for you at your arraignment (your first court date) and at the plea. You may also have the opportunity to appear by video if you are unable to attend court because of logistical issues.
When You Can't
The exceptions to this rule include domestic violence and DUI cases. In domestic violence cases, the court will order the defendant be present at the arraignment, sentence, and any proceedings regarding a protective order. In DUI cases, the court can order the defendant appear in all the court proceedings.
If you are facing felony charges, your attorney cannot appear in court on your behalf. He or she can, however, speak for you in court and provide guidance throughout the proceedings.
You should also appear in court if you have not had a chance to meet with your attorney or public defender or if they haven't answered your questions. The court dates are not just for the prosecution, they are for you to get information about your case. If your attorney or public defender is not providing that information, you should go to court.
It's also important to know an attorney or a public defender may ask for a continuance of your hearing if you have not had a chance to meet with them yet. Let's say you are arrested and post bail and are told when to come back to court but could not retain and meet with your attorney prior to the hearing. In this case, your attorney could ask for a continuance to give you a chance to meet with them and prepare for your court date. In many cases, the judge will OK this.
The Benefits of Having an Attorney Appear in Court
The criminal courts are governed by many complex rules and procedures. You are subject to many of them, so it's easy to make a mistake in court. Having an attorney appear by your side can ensure you don't make any mistakes that could jeopardize your case.
Now, it's also important to understand the difference between having a California criminal defense attorney represent you and a court-appointed public defender. A good criminal defense attorney will have the time and resources to work closely with you on your case.
On the other hand, public defenders typically ask defendants to show up at every court date unless they are able to meet with them beforehand. You'd be surprised the number of defendants who do not have a chance to meet with their public defenders prior to their hearings. Sometimes all you get is a hurried ten-minute conversation in the hallways of the court.
Public defenders represent many defendants and might not have the time to meet with you. Consequently, they like to have the defendant appear in court so they can ask questions and provide information.
Criminal defense attorneys, however, are being paid to handle many things behind the scenes. You will typically meet with your criminal defense attorney before a court date, and he or she will have the chance to thoroughly explain what could happen at the court date and discuss your options. Armed with that information, your attorney can confidently appear in court and make the right decision about your case.
If you are facing criminal charges, we can help you defend yourself. California attorney Christopher Martens knows California criminal defense and will help you fight for your rights. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has helped many Californians fight their charges. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.