Duhaime's Law Dictionary


In Absentia Definition:

Latin: in the absence of.

Sometimes spelled as in abstentia (with two t's) but the proper Latin form is in absentia.1

Usually used in reference to judgment or conviction against a person who did not attend trial. In absentia convictions are routinely entered against defendants in traffic violation cases.

In some instances, if a court is satisfied that a litigant or accused had proper notice of a hearing, the court may decide to proceed in the absence of that person, a process later described as proceeding in absentia, as in:

"Although Nick did not attend these proceedings, the courts determined that Nick had proper notice and proceeded in abstentia (sic)."2

In Ammar v Canada, an immigration case, Justice Dawson of the Federal Court wrote:

"(South Lebanese Army) who have been sentenced to death in abstentia (sic) are entitled to a new trial."

In People v Sanchez, the reasons for judgment of the Court of Appeals of the State of New York included this:

"Defendant was present in the courtroom when his attorney announced he was ready for trial. Defendant ... left the courthouse before his case was called.... The trial was adjourned until the following morning to allow defendant's attorney to investigate his client's disappearance. The next morning defendant appeared in his attorney's office but, in spite of his attorney's direction, he failed to return to court. Following a hearing that afternoon, Justice Sullivan found that the People had made a reasonable and diligent effort to find defendant and that defendant had knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to be present at trial. He proceeded to try the defendant in absentia...."

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