Going on the run after being charged with felony crimes and posting up a bond for bail is never a good idea. While some people may think they can escape the long arm of the law by simply disappearing, what they fail to realize is that in some circumstances they can be tried and convicted without attending their own trial. Such was the case for a Coal City nuclear plant operator who skipped out of town after being charged with carjacking.
According to The Chicago Tribune online site, 33-year-old Michael Buhrman disappeared after being arrested and charged with carjacking in Woodridge, Illinois. This week local prosecutors confirmed that Mr. Buhrman was found and is now being held by federal authorities. Mr. Buhrman and an associate of his who also worked at the Dresden Nuclear facility in Morris, Illinois, carjacked a store clerk in the parking lot of Kohl’s department store in May of last year. The two had held the store clerk at gunpoint.
Mr. Buhrman was arrested and charged with aggravated vehicular hijacking, but posted bail and was out wearing a GPS unit. In September, police searched Mr. Buhrman’s home after being alerted by the GPS unit. At the home, there was no sign of Buhrman, but some evidence of a break-in. Ultimately, Mr. Buhrman was tried in absentia after a judge determined that he had willfully fled, and he was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
A trial in absentia is one in which the defendant is absent. The recent Appellate Court case of People v. Liss, outlines Illinois law when it comes to convicting a charged person in absentia. Generally speaking, under the constitution, a criminal defendant has a right to confront the witnesses against him and to be present for all stages of his criminal trial. However, if a defendant does not show up to his or her own trial of his or her own volition, he or she may waive this constitutional right. Under the Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure, the court must advise defendants of this potential waiver.
In order to proceed with a trial in absentia, the court must find that there is substantial evidence that the defendant willfully failed to appear. There must be no justification for the defendant’s absence in order for the court to find that he or she has waived his or her constitutional rights.
Part of the reason that the Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure provides for trials in absentia is that the rights of the defendant must be balanced with the state’s interest in administering justice in a speedy and efficient manner. If a defendant does not show up to his own trial of his or her own volition and has been warned of the consequences, he or she may soon face a jail sentence and other severe penalties and consequences.
If you have been charged with violating Illinois criminal laws, you should immediately speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact Goldman & Associates today for a confidential consultation.