Trial In Absentia And The Constitutional Right To Trial
The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that any person who is charged with a crime and subjected to a criminal prosecution is entitled to a speedy and public trial. However, even if this right is guaranteed, an accused person can be tried in absentia, which means the accused person’s trial can proceed whether or not the person is present in the courtroom.
The right to trial includes a right to be present at critical stages of the criminal proceedings, which includes trial and sentencing. In Florida, a defendant can waive the right to be present at these proceedings. This waiver does not have to be accomplished in a written document, waiver can be accomplished by the accused actions.
As part of the pre-trial process, an accused is usually given notice of the fact that the court can conduct the trial even if the person is absent from the courtroom. If the accused subsequently skips bail or fails to appear for another reason, any conviction that is entered is valid unless it can be challenged on other legal grounds. If the court fails to give proper notice of the possibility of a trial in absentia, the trial can be held to have been in error, and any conviction that resulted from the trial can be reversed.
A person’s behavior during a proceeding can also cause a judge to order the person removed from the courtroom during trial. When this happens, the trial can continue without the person present in the courtroom, with his attorney representing him if he is not representing himself. If a judge abuses his power in ejecting an accused from trial, it may serve as a reason to overturn a conviction.
When it comes to sentencing, a court cannot sentence a person in absentia unless the person is willfully absent and was given notice of the proceedings. For a felony conviction, the sentence cannot be entered in absentia unless the defendant’s absence from the sentencing hearing was voluntary or he voluntarily waived his right to be present. A hearing may be conducted to show the reason for a person’s failure to appear at a sentencing hearing in order to determine if a sentence entered in absentia was valid.
If a person’s absence from trial is because the person escaped to avoid going to prison, and the person is acquitted at a trial in absentia, the person may still face additional charges for escaping. The person could end up serving time even though he was acquitted of the crime for which he was originally in custody
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If you are charged with a crime, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Speaking with an experienced attorney about your rights and possible defenses will help you make the right decision about how to move forward with your case. For more information about your rights when charged with a criminal offense, contact the experienced criminal defense team at Scott Berry Law for a free consultation today.