Saturday, March 08, 2008

Prelims: Disruptive Behavior

The court the Stud was in today held three preliminary hearings, on three separate cases involving the same person for the same type of offense. Before the judge could even call the first of the cases, the defendant began yelling, being disruptive, demanding to be let go, and then letting loose a volley of obscenities aimed at the court, startling the court somewhat.

The defendant was remanded to lock-up, and there followed much discussion as to what to do next. The prosecution and defense had different ideas, but all agreed that the defendant's conduct was most improper. Upon further review of the histories of the cases, it was found that the defendant had previously been sent to a special court to determine his competence to stand trial; and that court had ruled that he was competent. Then, off the record, the prosecutor revealed that a sheriff's deputy who was also a witness in one of the cases had commented to him about "playing the game", about his desire to delay the court because the system was never going to be fair to him to begin with.

Eventually, it was decided that the defense attorney would be permitted to admonish the defendant once more, including giving a warning that any further disruption would result in a limitation of his statutory right to be present at his own preliminary hearing. Although California law does provide defendants in felony cases the right to be present at their own preliminary hearings, it is statutory law, and under California Penal Code § 1043.5:

(b) The absence of the defendant in a preliminary hearing after the hearing has commenced in his presence shall not prevent continuing the hearing to, and including, holding to answer, filing an information, or discharging the defendant in any of the following cases: (1) Any case in which the defendant, after he has been warned by the judge that he will be removed if he continued his disruptive behavior, nevertheless insists on conducting himself in a manner so disorderly, disruptive, and disrespectful of the court that the hearing cannot be carried on with him in the courtroom.

It is apparent this sort of behavior is not so uncommon after all. It certainly made for an interesting--and long!--Friday afternoon!

No comments: