It certainly tempting to convince yourself that any trouble you may have gotten yourself into while on vacation or a business trip to Florida just fades away when you return to your home state.
Of course, that is not the case at all. And failing to appear in court when you have been ordered to do so can have serious consequences. Does that mean you need to stay in Florida—or be prepared to return for court dates?
Presence of Defendant Is Required on Court Dates
In Florida, the presence of the defendant is required in the following cases—even if the defendant lives out of state:
- At first appearance
- When a plea is made (unless a written “not guilty” plea is made in writing)
- At any pretrial conference (unless waived in writing by the defendant)
- At all proceedings involving the seating and swearing in of the jury
- At all proceedings during which the jury is present, at the presentation of evidence to the court that will be introduced to the jury, and at any view by the jury
- At the announcement of the verdict and at sentencing
It is important to note that under Florida law, a defendant is present if they are physically in attendance. Videoconferencing and other forms of remote participation are not allowed whether or not you are a resident of the state.
The good news is that if you retain an attorney before your court date, that attorney can appear in court on your behalf. If you sign a “waiver of appearance” form, your attorney will be able to appear on your behalf for all pretrial court hearings. In some cases, depending on how your case is resolved, you may not have to return to Florida to appear in court.
The Misdemeanor Exception for Presence in Court
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, you may request to be excused from all the proceedings mentioned above. If the judge agrees, you will be tried in absentia—that is, without being physically present.
Contact an Okaloosa County Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one have been arrested while on vacation in Florida, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 243-6097 for a free consultation.