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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.

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?

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Attorney answers 8


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

Elliot Zarabi 213-612-7720 This answer does not constitute full legal advise. I do not know the full details of the case and therefore cannot make a full determination on your case or your answer. I always recommend speaking to an attorney in detail regarding your case.


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 . Be aware that every state has its own statute of limitations; and statutes & case laws that govern the handling of these matters.


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:
I have done many petty theft cases.


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 suggerst some general principles and should not be relied upon for client decisions. Only upon the hiring of counsel can such advice be custom-tailored to the client's specific situation and needs.


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.


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.


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.
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The response above is not intended as legal advice since it’s impracticable to provide thorough, accurate advice based upon the query without additional details. It is highly recommended that one should seek advice from a criminal defense attorney licensed in your jurisdiction by setting up a confidential meeting. Moreover, this response does not constitute the creation of an attorney-client relationship since this message is not a confidential communication because it was posted on a public website, thereby publicly disclosing the information, which is another reason to setup a confidential meeting with an attorney.


You can hire an attorney to represent her.

Curt Harrington Patent & Tax Law Attorney Certified Tax Specialist by the California Board of Legal Specialization PATENTAX.COM This communication is general information and not legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. This communication should not be relied upon as any type of legal advice. Please note that no attorney-client relationship exists between the sender and the recipient of this message in the absence of either (1) a signed fee contract and (2) remission of an agreed-upon retainer. Absent such an agreement and retainer, I am not engaged by you as an attorney, nor is any other member of my law firm.