Charged with a misdemeanor? You may not ever have to appear in court.

California Penal Code section 977

If you’re charged with a misdemeanor by the District Attorney or City Attorney’s office, you may never have to appear in court on your case.  The California Penal Code allows an attorney to appear on behalf of their client on most misdemeanors.  By retaining an attorney before your court date, you may not have to take time off from work or school to appear in court.  There are a couple of exceptions.

Domestic Violence allegations [Penal Code 273.5, 243(e)]

If you are charged with a domestic violence charge, you will be required to be in court for your first appearance (the arraignment).  In many cases, the prosecution can request that the judge issue a criminal protective order against you while the case is going on.  Because you would have to be personally served with a copy of the restraining order, you have to be in court on your first court date.  What is that restraining order?  It can potentially kick you out of your house, prevent you from contacting your spouse or partner, kids, etc.  If you and your attorney are prepared for this court appearance, there may be things you can do before that day to either prevent a restraining order from being issued against you or at least trying to make it a “peaceful contact” order.  If the judge makes it a peaceful contact order, you can still go home and be in contact with your spouse/partner, but will be ordered not to have any violent contact.  If you’re facing an upcoming court date for domestic violence in Orange County, give me a call so we can discuss your options and what can get us in the best position for a good outcome – even from your first court date.

Violation of a domestic violence restraining order (Penal Code 273.6)

If you’re accused of violating the terms of a domestic violence protective order, you must appear at your first court appearance.  It is highly likely that the judge will issue a new protective order and set certain terms for to allow you to remain out of custody.  Many of these allegations are based on technical violations or are flat-out false.  When facing an allegation that you violated the terms of a restraining order, early investigation by the defense may lead to the charges being dismissed.

Driving under the influence (DUI) in an “appropriate case”

Although for most first time DUI cases [Vehicle Code 23152(a) or 23152(b)] an attorney can appear on behalf of their client, if you have a prior conviction for DUI within the past 10 years (including a conviction for vehicular manslaughter (Penal Code 191.5), DUI (23152) or DUI with injury (23153), the Penal Code says that a judge can require you to be present at your arraignment.  If you have already posted bail, that may be sufficient to allow your attorney to appear.  Often, the DA’s office does not file your case until months later and your bail will have already expired.  What do you do then?  Depending on the facts of the case, we may want you to attend self-help meetings (AA meetings) to show the judge you’re not at risk of drinking and driving and to allow you to remain free without having to repost bail.

In any criminal case, not just misdemeanors, early contact with a criminal defense attorney can set the stage for a good outcome.  Defense investigation, counseling, meetings or other affirmative steps can make the difference.

If you’re facing criminal charges – arrested, under investigation or with a court date pending – give me a call to discuss your case and what your options are.

Joe Dane