Every state has their own rules and procedure when it comes to arraignments. An arraignment, is the first court date in a criminal case. Traditionally, it is where you are read the charges against you, given the right to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, and can also be the hearing where bail (or the lack of bail) can be set. In other words, it can be a very important hearing.
But as stated above, different rules apply in different areas. For instance, in California, on a misdemeanor case, an attorney can appear in place of the client. This is pursuant to Penal Code 977, which states:
“(a) (1) In all cases in which the accused is charged with a misdemeanor only, he or she may appear by counsel only, except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3). “
Subsection 2 applies to domestic violence cases. In these cases, at least in California, the accused must personally appear.
Subsection 3 applies to DUI cases. However, in order for the defendant to personally appear in a misdemeanor DUI case, the court must order the defendant to appear in advance of the arraignment. This fact tells us two things: The court has the authority to require a personal appearance at the misdemeanor arraignment and, the court does not have the authority to order a defendant to personally appear at misdemeanor arraignment that does not involve a DUI case or domestic violence.
In Federal Court, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure state:
“(b) Waiving Appearance. A defendant need not be present for the arraignment if:
(1) the defendant has been charged by indictment or misdemeanor information;
(2) the defendant, in a written waiver signed by both the defendant and defense counsel, has waived appearance and has affirmed that the defendant received a copy of the indictment or information and that the plea is not guilty; and
(3) the court accepts the waiver.”
Therefore, in Federal Court, on a misdemeanor offense, the Court can allow a waiver of the defendants presence. Keep in mind though, that different Federal Courts can have different local rules, and they certainly have different unofficial policies.
This article was contributed by Sacramento DUI Lawyer Michael Rehm. Always remember to consult with an attorney before making any decisions on any legal matters in general.