Trial in absentia

Trial in absentia is a criminal proceeding in a court of law in which the person who is subject to it is not physically present at those proceedings. In absentia is Latin for “in the absence”. Its meaning varies by jurisdiction and legal system.

In common law legal systems, the phrase is more than a spatial description. In these systems it suggests a recognition of a violation to a defendant’s right to be present in court proceedings in a criminal trial. Conviction in a trial in which a defendant is not present to answer the charges is held to be a violation of natural justice. Specifically, it violates the second principle of natural justice, audi alteram partem (hear the other party).

In some civil law legal systems, such as that of Italy, absentia is a recognized and accepted defensive strategy. Such trials may require the presence of the defendant’s lawyer, depending on the country.

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