This will depend on where you were criminally charged. Typically, if you are facing a felony charge, you must appear in person in nearly every county in the state. However, if you are facing a misdemeanor, it is much trickier to know your options.
For example, if you are facing a DUI charge, some courts require that you appear for all hearings in person, some require that you only appear for your Arraignment in-person, some require you only appear at the end, for the disposition of the case, and others never require you to appear in person. Can it be more confusing?
Who Can Tell Me Whether I Must Appear?
You should always ask your defense attorney. Unfortunately, with the constant turnover in court staff, it is hard to trust the answer from court clerks. There is little to no consequence for the clerk staff if they gave you incorrect advice but there are BIG consequences to you for failing to know how to appear for your hearing.
If you have a public defender, confirming this information can be very difficult depending on where you are facing a charge. Some counties and cities have well-run and well-staffed offices. Unfortunately, many do not.
Many counties have to outsource public defense cases to private attorneys who are carrying their private caseload as well as a large public defense caseload. That gets messy and overwhelming. We get calls every month from people who hire us because it has been months and they have never received a return call from their public defender.
What If I Am Supposed To Appear In Person But Need To Appear Via Zoom?
Most likely, you will simply have to find a way to appear in-person. However, every month we do work out arrangements in advance with the prosecutor. Once we present sufficient facts to the prosecutor, we can often prepare an agreed order for the judge to sign prior to the date of court. Generally, if the zoom appearance is agreed upon by the prosecutor and defense attorney, a judge will not have an issue signing the order.
What If The Judge Will Not Sign?
Unfortunately, you will have to appear in person. If the judge has not signed the agreed order prior to your court date, you must comply with the rules or risk a failure to appear entered in the docket and a warrant being issued.
This does not happen often but it does happen more regularly in a certain court. There are certain judges who do not keep up on requests filed by the parties or they choose to be difficult. If you are our client, we can let you know right away if your matter is in front of a judge who will be challenging.
Obstacles To Appearing Via Zoom
As noted above, depending on the nature of your criminal charge, there are some situations in which you absolutely must appear in-person. This is typically done because the court needs to have you present in the event your criminal history warrants taking you back into custody for outstanding warrants or other issues.
If you have already failed to appear and have a warrant, that is another issue that your private attorney will need to work out. Typically, you must appear in person to quash the warrant prior to your regularly scheduled court date to avoid being taken into custody. If you have a warrant in Kitsap or Thurston counties or the municipalities in those areas, reach out to one of our attorneys so we can help resolve that issue.
We are here 7 days a week to take calls. (360) 792-1000 Criminal cases do not get better with age so do not delay in getting help!