What is Trial in Absentia?
A trial in absentia is when the Court conducts a trial absent the defendant. This practice has been occurring more often then not in Los Angeles Counties. It is a way for the Courts to reduce the number of Failures to Appear it issues. It also may be unconstitutional. It only happens when a Defendant appears in Court at the arraignment date and pleads not guilty. The Court then sets the matter for trial and advises the Defendant that the Court may hold a trial in absentia if the Defendant fails to appear.
Is a Trial in Absentia Permitted?
Yes. The Vehicle Code does permit a trial in absentia. However, the standard rules of Evidence still apply. Which, in my view means that a Court can only hold a trial in absentia IF THE OFFICER appears for trial and IF THE OFFICER testifies to the foundational requirements of the ticket. So, if you have been found guilty in absentia you may want to order a copy of the Courts minutes to find out if the officer was present for the trial. If the officer was not present and the Court found you guilty in Absentia I believe an appeal on the grounds that the Court relied on Hearsay (I.E. the ticket copy filed with the Court) to find the defendant guilty.