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In Absentia

My boyfriend is on the run. He is scared. His lawyer called me and told me to get my boyfriend to the courtroom by Monday or the Judge would let the DA’s office put the trial on without him. Can they do this?

The defendant in a criminal matter has the absolute right to be present at all criminal proceedings unless he willfully fails to appear. If the defendant willfully fails to appear, the District Attorney can ask the judge to proceed with the trial without the defendant. The District Attorney must prove that the defendant is not in the hospital, the morgue, etc. Once the District Attorney proves these points, they may proceed to trial in absentia.

Understand that District Attorney doesn’t have to proceed in absentia. The District Attorney can choose to continue the case. The statute of limitations and speedy trial law are both tolled by the defendants willful failure to appear in court, so the District Attorney is only prejudiced by delaying the trial if they believe one or more of their witnesses could die or become unavailable.

The District Attorney could at least continue the case so they could try to pick up the defendant. By doing the trial without the defendant, there are obvious parts of trial that won’t happen because of the failure to appear, like testify. Obviously, I understand that when the defendant willfully fails to appear, the defendant in at the mercy of the District Attorney, but the District still makes the decision.

Time for a quote:

“Goeth: You know, I look at you. I watch you. You’re not a drunk. That’s, that’s real control. Control is power. That’s power.
Schindler: Is that why they fear us?
Goeth: We have the fucking power to kill, that’s why they fear us.
Schindler: They fear us because we have the power to kill arbitrarily. A man commits a crime, he should know better. We have him killed and we feel pretty good about it. Or we kill him ourselves and we feel even better. That’s not power, though, that’s justice. That’s different than power. Power is when we have every justification to kill – and we don’t.
Goeth: You think that’s power.
Schindler: That’s what the emperors had. A man stole something, he’s brought in before the emperor, he throws himself down on the ground, he begs for mercy, he knows he’s going to die. And the emperor pardons him. This worthless man, he lets him go.
Goeth: I think you are drunk.
Schindler: That’s power, Amon. That is power. [gestures toward Goeth as a merciful emperor] Amon, the Good.
Goeth: [He smiles and laughs] I pardon you.”

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