Do I have to go to court?

Whether or not a defendant presence is required in court will depend on a number of factors such as their place of residence, the nature of the charge, the jurisdiction where they have been charged and whether they have hired an attorney to represent them in court.  For the far majority of my clients, I can go to court for them so they will not have to appear in court.  This is particularly important for my out of state clients who face the proposition of driving several hours, taking time off work, paying for a hotel room, and ultimately sitting around in a crowded court room until their case is called.  It is always a good idea to contact an attorney about your case to determine whether your presence would be required.  Dealing with a criminal matter can be expensive enough without the additional expenses involved in coming back to the location of the alleged offense in order to sit in court all day.

            The single most important factor leading to your presence being required is the severity of the alleged offense.  The greater the severity the more likely it is that you will have to appear in court.  Typically, your presence would be required for high-speed cases, driving on a suspended license, DUI, and possession of marijuana among other offenses.  However, each court and judge carry different standards on this issue and there is no black line rule that would apply to all cases in Virginia.  You will want to speak with an attorney who is intimately familiar with the local rules for your court.  Local rules can very significantly from one court to another and you must be sure you speak to an attorney who has extensive experience dealing with a variety of different matters in that particular court.  

            Another fact that influences this issue is where the defendant lives.  The farther away you live the less likely the judge is to require your presence in court.  Again there is no clear line as to how far away an individual must be in order to be excused from appearing in court.  Instead the judge is likely to weigh several factors such as the nature and severity of the allege crime, previous record, and the distance you live from Virginia and specifically the courthouse.

           There are other times when my clients presence is not required but recommended.  When handling a case that has the potential to could go a couple of different ways, I find it beneficial to have the client present in court.  This can be especially beneficial by showing the judge that my client has taken the time and expense to make sure that he or she is in court despite the fact that he or she is not required to be there.  On the rare occasion the judge is inclined to convict my client he will have to deliver that news personally which I think can be harder for judges to do with a “good client” who has completed all of the items of mitigation evidence I have requested and has come to court personally.  Again, each case is different and I can’t overstress the importance of speaking with an attorney familiar with your court and judge so that a proper plan of action can be drawn up and executed.