What can my friend, who is out of the country and short on funds, do about her court date? Public Defenders won't represent her.

Asked over 1 year ago - Pasadena, CA

A friend of mine was caught shoplifting 5 markers valued at $13 and was charged with a misdemeanor (I believe she said it was petty theft). Now, her court date is on the 18th of this month, but she is in currently out of the country and is unlikely to return before the appointed court date since she is working there temporarily. If she isn't able to return in time for the court date, is there anything she can do to amend the situation or even prevent it from getting worse?

Attorney answers (8)

  1. Elliot Rahmim Zarabi

    Pro

    Contributor Level 18

    8

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Your friend may have no choice but to hire an attorney to appear on her behalf and handle her case for her. If this case goes to warrant, there is a big chance that upon returning to the US, she can be taken into custody.

    Elliot Zarabi
    www.FreeCriminalConsultation.com
    213-612-7720

    Elliot Zarabi www.FreeCriminalConsultation.com 213-612-7720 This answer does not constitute full legal advise. I... more
  2. Michael R Crosner

    Contributor Level 20

    7

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Since the charge apparently is a misdemeanor she can hire a local CA criminal attorney to appear for her - better move fast, the 18th is approaching. Good luck

    This is not intended to be legal advise or as legal representation. I am a California personal injury attorney .... more
  3. Nicholas Maurice Rosenberg

    Contributor Level 14

    7

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Public Defenders get appointed at arraignment meaning until that first court date they do not represent you. That is why she needs a private attorney to appear for her and fight her case while she is abroad. I agree that a warrant would show up when she tried to return to the US. I can be reached through my website at:
    www.losangelesdefenders.com
    I have done many petty theft cases.

  4. Richard Franklin Taub

    Contributor Level 14

    6

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . My colleagues are correct. The only way for your friend to prevent a warrant from issuing is to have an attorney appear for her. The attorney can appear in your friend's absence. Though a plea may occur in her absence as well, the problem may occur if your friend needs to go to trial (either because the case is winnable or if she is not a citizen and would face removal from the U.S. if convicted). She would buy herself substantial time before a trial would occur if she retained counsel as indicated above.

    The information provided herein does not create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided is to... more
  5. Gary Stephen Barthel

    Contributor Level 3

    5

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Because it is a misdemeanor, she is not required to be present at the hearing. My advice would be to contact an attorney, discuss her situation, and have the attorney make an appearance on her behalf.
    http://www.higgslaw.com/attorneys/gary-s-barthel

  6. Ian Michael Wallach

    Contributor Level 9

    5

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Since she has a court date, and the amount of the amounts at issue is less than $950, she will likely be charged with a misdemeanor count of petty theft (PC Section 484(a)). Since it will be a misdemeanor, an attorney can appear on her behalf (she won't need to be there). If she is not there, and no attorney is there for her, a bench warrant will likely issue. But if an attorney is there, that attorney can do a lot of good, including either (a) "putting the matter over" (continuing it for up to 30 days so she can be there); or (b) attempting to negotiate a 490.1 infraction (Petty Theft when the value is less than $50) -- which is a great result, as "infractions" are not deemed crimes (parking tickets are infractions). If she can't get an attorney, and no one can get one for her, and a bench warrant does issue, she should come into court immediately once she gets back home. If she walks into court, she will likely walk out. But if she is arrested for the warrant, she will be brought in after up to 2 days in custody -- which isn't fun for anyone. The best thing you can do for her is find her a solid attorney with great references who practices frequently in that court.

  7. Michael Kevin Cernyar

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . If your friend is charged with a misdemeanor there is a possibility that she may never have to appear in court as long as she provides her attorney permission to appear on her behalf pursuant to Penal Code 977. Public defenders generally do not offer such a courtesy.

    I suggest that she contact an attorney immediately. Much of the negotation and finalization of the retainer agreement can be done via email or fax machine. Many reputable attorneys offer a free consultation so I suggest that she contact one soon to discuss the facts and to develop a strategy.

    www.YourCriminalDefenseLawyer.com
    (800) 409-7010

    The response above is not intended as legal advice since it’s impracticable to provide thorough, accurate advice... more
  8. Curtis Lamar Harrington Jr

    Contributor Level 20

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You can hire an attorney to represent her.

    Curt Harrington Patent & Tax Law Attorney Certified Tax Specialist by the California Board of Legal... more

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