Can My Lawyer Appear in Court for Me?

From having to take time off from work to arranging childcare and finding transportations, planning for a court hearing can be a logistical nightmare. Many defendants wonder whether a criminal defense attorney can stand in for them at their court date, saving them the hassle of rearranging their schedules so that they can appear themselves.  

In North Carolina, a select number of offenses are considered “waivable offenses,” meaning a lawyer can appear in court on behalf of a client. Here, we discuss what those waivable offenses are, what happens in you fail to appear for a non-waivable offense, and how a criminal defense attorney can assist you in handling your case. 

Waivable Offenses

The majority of criminal cases in North Carolina require a defendant to appear in court himself. There are, however, certain waivable traffic offenses that can be handled either by (1) paying the fines and court fees before the court date or (2) hiring an attorney to appear on the defendant’s behalf. These are considered waivable offenses because, by paying the fines or having a lawyer appear and pay them on your behalf, you are essentially waiving your right to appear at a hearing. Only certain relatively minor offenses (such as a ticket for a broken taillight) are waivable, as the State of North Carolina views a defendant’s right to appear as fundamental. 

How will you know if your ticket is a waivable offense? When issued, the ticket will indicate (on the backside) whether the offense is waivable. Even if an offense is waivable, if you want to plead not guilty, you generally must appear at the hearing to enter your plea. 

Keep in mind that by having an attorney appear on your behalf in court and paying the ticket, you will be pleading guilty to the offense, which can have implications on your driver’s license and insurance. As such, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to advise you on your options before deciding how to proceed.

Failure to Appear 

For most non-waivable offenses, a criminal defendant must appear at his or her hearing. If you fail to attend a mandatory hearing, the court may issue a Failure to Appear and, possibly, an Order for Arrest. Also, your driver’s license might be revoked and you could face additional charges. 

If you think you will not be able to make it to your scheduled hearing, contact an attorney as soon as possible to assist you with rescheduling your hearing. The consequences for failing to appear at a mandatory hearing are ones you do not want to suffer in addition to any potential consequences for the original offense. 

For more information or for assistance navigating your North Carolina criminal case, contact us for a free consultation.