Exceptions to 977(a): When a Defendant must appear on a California Misdemeanor charge

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Southern California Defense Attorney Lance M. FilerPenal Code 977(a) outlines the familiar rule that attorneys love to use for a California misdemeanor charge.   Where the accused is charged in California criminal court with up to a misdemeanor only, the defendant may appear by counsel only. Attorneys favor this for a verity of reasons, no waiting on or being rushed by clients at the time of the hearing, and it allows clients to maintain their normal day rather than dealing with the hassle of attending a court hearing during the business work day.

Many attorneys are not aware or pay attention to later sections of this favored California rule which outline the exceptions located in 977(a)(2) and 977(a)(3). If any of the below exceptions apply, the defendant must be present with counsel.

977(a)(2): Is an exception where the defendant is charged with a California misdemeanor charge involving either:

  1. Domestic Violence    OR
  2. Violating a Criminal or Civil Restraining Order

The court is concerned that the defendant will not be properly informed of the conditions and penalties of violating a California protective order issued pursuant to PC § 136.2 as its reasoning.

977(a)(3): Is the second exception, California misdemeanor charge that involve various charges of driving under the influence (DUI). These offenses include:

  1. Any California DUI misdemeanor charge involving vehicular manslaughter.
  2. Any California DUI misdemeanor charge that causes bodily injury to a third party.
  3. Any reduction of a California DUI guilty plea, better known as a “wet reckless.”
  4. Driving a personal vehicle with a blood alcohol level over 0.08 in California.
  5. Driving a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol level over 0.04 in California.


Overall, deciding how to handle your Criminal case depends on your individual circumstances so it’s imperative you contact an experienced attorney  to assist your needs.  If you require representation on the above or any other criminal matter, feel free to reach me directly at The Law Offices of Mark A. Gallagher: (800) 797 – 8406 and email: lance.socaldefense@gmail.com

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