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Doug Landau
Doug Landau
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What happens when the defendant driver does not show up for trial ?

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By the time they hit middle school, a lot of kids have learned what some may deem a useful tactic. Everyone remembers the sly ten (or twelve or sixteen) year old whose illnesses always happened to correspond to test days. There was nothing like an algebra midterm to set his or her fever to suddenly spike his or her fever overnight. The philosophy goes like this- if you’re not ready to face the music, simply crawl back into bed with your violin in hand and don’t show up. Granted, kids with "testday-itis" can’t put off the dreaded confrontation forever, but what happens when the habit carries over into adulthood? Not everyone is willing to take responsibility for his or her actions, but most stakes are higher than a math grade after weeks of not studying. For example, if you are injured in an auto accident, you expect that the responsible party will be held accountable by the legal system. However, if the other driver decides not to show up on your court date, the consequences may be yours to face.

After being injured in an accident, you may end up in court trying to collect damages. In such cases, a jury is convened to determine how much you are entitled to collect. Assuming the defendant driver has insurance, the insurance company will send their attorneys to court to protect their interests. In a civil trial, this means that the attorneys are not there to argue the defendant’s potential criminal culpability. Rather, the company is concerned solely with the extent of financial liability that is incurred. In that case, the defendant driver is a key witness, but the battle is really against his or her insurer. (If he or she was uninsured and does not appear, the law allows you to put your own insurance company on notice to pay you from your Uninsured Motorist Coverage, if you have it.)

However, while a defendant has the right to attend proceedings against him or her, he or she can also waive that right and choose not to attend the trial. This means that the insurance company can proceed without having to worry about the jury’s impression of the defendant or a damaging cross examination. When a witness has been subpoenaed and fails to appear in court, a bench warrant is typically issued for the witness’s arrest. Unfortunately, in many cases, requests to subpoena a defendant are denied unless the case at hand involves a capital crime. The Landau Law Shop routinely subpoenas the Defendants as well as other important witnesses. If a subpoenaed witness does not show up for an Abrams Landau trial, we request a continuance until such time as the reluctant witness is brought in to testify under oath.

In tomorrow’s post, we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of an absent defendant.