California Penal Code Section 977




(a)(1) In all cases in which the accused is charged with a misdemeanor only, he or she may appear by counsel only, except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3).  If the accused agrees, the initial court appearance, arraignment, and plea may be by video, as provided by subdivision (c).

(2) If the accused is charged with a misdemeanor offense involving domestic violence, as defined in Section 6211 of the Family Code, or a misdemeanor violation of Section 273.6, the accused shall be present for arraignment and sentencing, and at any time during the proceedings when ordered by the court for the purpose of being informed of the conditions of a protective order issued pursuant to Section 136.2.

(3) If the accused is charged with a misdemeanor offense involving driving under the influence, in an appropriate case, the court may order a defendant to be present for arraignment, at the time of plea, or at sentencing.  For purposes of this paragraph, a misdemeanor offense involving driving under the influence shall include a misdemeanor violation of any of the following:

(A) Subdivision (b) of Section 191.5.

(B) Section 23103 as specified in Section 23103.5 of the Vehicle Code.

(C) Section 23152 of the Vehicle Code.

(D) Section 23153 of the Vehicle Code.

(b)(1) In all cases in which a felony is charged, the accused shall be present at the arraignment, at the time of plea, during the preliminary hearing, during those portions of the trial when evidence is taken before the trier of fact, and at the time of the imposition of sentence.  The accused shall be personally present at all other proceedings unless he or she shall, with leave of court, execute in open court, a written waiver of his or her right to be personally present, as provided by paragraph (2).  If the accused agrees, the initial court appearance, arraignment, and plea may be by video, as provided by subdivision (c).

(2) The accused may execute a written waiver of his or her right to be personally present, approved by his or her counsel, and the waiver shall be filed with the court.  However, the court may specifically direct the defendant to be personally present at any particular proceeding or portion thereof.  The waiver shall be substantially in the following form:

“Waiver of Defendant's Personal Presence”

“The undersigned defendant, having been advised of his or her right to be present at all stages of the proceedings, including, but not limited to, presentation of and arguments on questions of fact and law, and to be confronted by and cross-examine all witnesses, hereby waives the right to be present at the hearing of any motion or other proceeding in this cause.  The undersigned defendant hereby requests the court to proceed during every absence of the defendant that the court may permit pursuant to this waiver, and hereby agrees that his or her interest is represented at all times by the presence of his or her attorney the same as if the defendant were personally present in court, and further agrees that notice to his or her attorney that his or her presence in court on a particular day at a particular time is required is notice to the defendant of the requirement of his or her appearance at that time and place.”

(c) The court may permit the initial court appearance and arraignment of defendants held in any state, county, or local facility within the county on felony or misdemeanor charges, except for those defendants who were indicted by a grand jury, to be conducted by two-way electronic audiovideo communication between the defendant and the courtroom in lieu of the physical presence of the defendant in the courtroom.  If the defendant is represented by counsel, the attorney shall be present with the defendant at the initial court appearance and arraignment, and may enter a plea during the arraignment.  However, if the defendant is represented by counsel at an arraignment on an information in a felony case, and if the defendant does not plead guilty or nolo contendere to any charge, the attorney shall be present with the defendant or if the attorney is not present with the defendant, the attorney shall be present in court during the hearing.  The defendant shall have the right to make his or her plea while physically present in the courtroom if he or she so requests.  If the defendant decides not to exercise the right to be physically present in the courtroom, he or she shall execute a written waiver of that right.  A judge may order a defendant's personal appearance in court for the initial court appearance and arraignment.  In a misdemeanor case, a judge may, pursuant to this subdivision, accept a plea of guilty or no contest from a defendant who is not physically in the courtroom.  In a felony case, a judge may, pursuant to this subdivision, accept a plea of guilty or no contest from a defendant who is not physically in the courtroom if the parties stipulate thereto.

(d) Notwithstanding subdivision (c), if the defendant is represented by counsel, the attorney shall be present with the defendant in any county exceeding 4,000,000 persons in population.


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