If you have an attorney, there are some circumstances where you can avoid going to court (and your attorney appears on your behalf).
In almost all misdemeanors, you can avoid going to the first appearance if you sign a waiver for your lawyer. Most first appearances in misdemeanor cases result in simply getting a new court appearance; typically nothing substantive occurs. Statutes require the courts to excuse your appearance at the first appearance: “In misdemeanor cases, if the defendant consents either in writing or on the record, the court must excuse the defendant from appearing for arraignment or plea, and the court may excuse the defendant from appearing at trial or sentencing.” Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.03, subdiv. 1(3). The statute allows the court to excuse your presence at some other court appearance; in these circumstances, the court must permit your absence, it is not assumed. While our office almost always has you waive your first appearance in misdemeanor cases, we want you to appear at all other court appearances because we need to be able to discuss potential resolutions or setting the case for trial.
In gross misdemeanor cases, statutes allow the court to excuse your presence at most appearances. “In gross misdemeanor cases, the court may, on the defendant’s motion, excuse the defendant’s presence except at trial.” Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.03, subdiv. 1(3). Typically, the first appearances in gross misdemeanor cases require you to identify yourself to make sure you are the person who is actually charged. Our office almost always wants you to be at every court appearance in gross misdemeanor cases. Because gross misdemeanors are more severe than misdemeanors and carry heavier penalties, it is important for you to be available for discussions at each appearance.
In felony cases, statutes allow your nonappearance at certain circumstances: “In felony cases, the court may, on the defendant’s motion, excuse the defendant’s presence except at arraignment, plea, trial, and sentencing.” Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.03, subdiv. 1(3). Our office almost always needs you to be at every court appearance due to the severity of felony cases. Most judges will always require your presence as well because these are the most serious cases.
Ask your attorney whether you can waive your appearance in court. The general rule is: (a) you can waive your appearance at the first appearance if the case is a misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor, otherwise (b) you must be present unless you have a really, really good reason and your presence is not required by statute.