Appear In Court

Do I have to appear in Court or can My Attorney Appear for Me?

There is no one answer to this question. Depending on the essence of your charge your attorney may or may not appear in court without you. Let’s look through the cases when you must appear in court.

Minor wrongdoing vs felony

If you are a perpetrator of a misdemeanor, your attorney is allowed to appear in court for you. He/she may defend your rights without your presence on your behalf at all stages of your case. But, if your charge is brought for a felony you must take part in all stages including arraignment, plea, preliminary hearing, parts of a trial and sentencing at the court with your attorney.

Exceptions

Though we mentioned that you may not appear in court in the case of a misdemeanor, nevertheless there are cases of such offenses when your participation is a must. Let’s have a look at some of them:

  • In the Case of a domestic violence, your attorney can not appear for you. You as a defendant must appear at the arraignment and sentencing stages. The reason why especially at these stages is that in domestic violence cases the court may issue a protective order. This order must be served on the defendant personally.
  • You as a defendant must appear in court when accused of a violation of protective order (mentioned in the above point).
  • Though sometimes your attorney may appear for you in DUI case, your participation is a must at the arraignment, plea and/or sentencing. If you don’t know appear or not, take the variant “appear” to avoid further problems in the shape of bench warrant or else.

Consequences if you fail to appear in court…

When you fail to appear in court you automatically violate the court order or a ticket citation (depends on the case). But, appearing in court doesn’t mean that you are undoubtedly an accused or suspect of a criminal deed. There are some other reasons as such:

  • You are treated as a witness
  • A person or a company has sued you in a civil lawsuit
  • When you didn’t show up for jury duty etc.

When you fail to appear on a due date and time, the court charges you with Failure to Appear in Court.

What is a “Failure to Appear in Court?”

This is a violation of a court order treated as a criminal offense which may lead to criminal charges. As the laws and regulations differ from state to state, this failure may be treated either as a misdemeanor or a felony. If you live in a state where the failure to appear in court is considered as a misdemeanor, you may be either fined or imprisoned less than a year in a country or local jail. If your state law defines your act as a felony, you will carry your punishment in prison more than a year. Do you think this is the end of the story? No! In addition, you will get the charge regarding your initial offense too. The charges may include:

  • Bench warrant for your arrest
  • Jail time
  • Paying fine
  • Revoking your driver’s license
  • No bail opportunity
  • Ruling in favor of the other party in civil cases

What to do then?

To avoid any additional punishment for failing to appear in court and not take it as an intentional deed, you should submit a valid reason to the judge for not showing up. Valid reasons for not appearing in the court are as follows:

  • The court didn’t send you a proper notice of the date and time
  • You have a previously scheduled court appearance
  • You have serious health concerns or some accident
  • Because of some natural disaster like hurricane, tornado, earthquake, etc.
  • Your family member passed away

Consult with an attorney

Of course, the list above can be continued, but one thing I would like to mention is that even if you are in such case when your attorney may appear for you but the judge demands your attendance, always appear to avoid miscellaneously. Or else otherwise consult your attorney who will tell you whether he/she may appear on your behalf or not. If you don’t have an attorney yet, again choose the variant “appear in court” if your case doesn’t fall within valid reasons not to appear.

Represent Someone in court

Do You Have to be a Lawyer to represent Someone in Court?

Yes! In the majority of cases, especially in the USA, you must be at least a licensed practitioner to represent someone in the court. Your friend or acquaintance is in trouble with the law and needs legal support. In such situation, you can only give some information, support and/or offer some piece of advice on how to proceed. You can’t represent anybody but yourself in the court. If you do without any formal document, it will be blatantly illegal.

If you don’t want to commit an offense, never try to represent someone in the court because you’ll be thrown off the case and a charge will be brought against you. Sometimes you can even face fines and imprisonment.

Even if someone is out of the city and has to go to some hearings as an accused or else, you can’t be his/her legal representative in such cases as well. The best thing you can do is to advise him/her to hire an attorney to make the appearance at trial.

What will happen if you represent someone in the court without a license?

There are two ways out: the 1st outcome of your deed will be that the presiding judge will soon make clear that you are not qualified or licensed. Your honesty will prohibit you from representing that very person. He will order him/her to find an alternate attorney. What refers to the 2nd outcome of your representation, you will misrepresent yourself as a skillful, experienced attorney. That is, you will act illegally resulting a new case be opened against you.

Who can represent the accused in the court?

To represent someone in the court you must first pass the bar exam in your state. Otherwise, there are no any other circumstances under which you will be permitted to represent anybody in the court. Generally, those who have not been accepted to a state bar are completely banned from practicing law within that state’s jurisdiction. Such ban refers to bar-certified attorneys from other states and areas as well. For example, if an attorney practiced law in Oregon there is no guarantee that he/she will be allowed to represent the client in Texas court or elsewhere. But this stands not for all states. There are ones which permit attorneys from ”outside” to represent the client in certain cases within their boundaries.

Besides the attorney, spouses can represent each other. This is possible in the cases when they are both sued, i.e. when they are defendants one of them can appear before the court and the other will not get defaulted.

But parents can’t represent their minors. Though parents may be child’s representative on court papers, they can’t be considered as in-court representatives.

So, all these mean that you may have two choices either get a legal representative or represent yourself personally.

Why you can’t represent someone in the court?

Based on the court provisions, if someone doesn’t have a law license, the ”client” could be vulnerable to the mistakes, unskillfulness or ignorance of the representative. This is the main reason why the judge wouldn’t allow you represent your friend or acquaintance.

Exceptions!

Some federal and/or state agencies permit non-lawyers to represent someone at hearings which are administrative. For instance, non-licensed lawyers are allowed to appear for Social Security and Unemployment Benefit hearings. Other proceedings which accept non-lawyers are some private arbitration ones. What refers to federal bankruptcy law, it also undergoes this exception. Here you as a non-lawyer can prepare bankruptcy petitions but can not go to the court.

“In all courts of the United States, the parties may plead and conduct their own cases personally or by counsel.”

Keep in mind, that even if you are asked to represent someone for simple and/or routine matters, you can not go to the court unless otherwise, you have a law license. Follow our advice based on the law, don’t get in troubles!