Answer: It depends when you offer this information. If you wait to long, the answer will be a hard NO.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Can a Doctor Excuse You From Jail? (Explained)
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Court is Serious
First and foremost, a quick note from a doctor probably won’t be useful throughout any of the court process or punishment.
Court appearances and jailtime are very serious matters.
While a doctor’s note might excuse you from appearance at work (or keep you out of trouble after the fact), a quick dashed off doctor’s note just doesn’t cut it in the legal world.
Not showing up to court or to your scheduled jail surrender date/time with the excuse that the defendant was not feeling well is not going to go over well.
It could result in additional criminal charges and the loss of any trust/goodwill a defendant might have built up with the prosecution and the court.
When To Offer Evidence Of Illness To Avoid Jail?
If a defendant is hoping to avoid jail because of a health condition or illness, the best times to offer that information/evidence are during the negotiations with the prosecutor, and at the sentencing hearing.
As the parties (prosecution and defense) are discussing the potential outcomes of the case that the parties could agree to, the defendant’s health condition can be considered in the negotiations.
If the prosecution does not agree to a non-jail sentence on health related grounds, the defendant is free to try and convince the judge that jail is not the best resolution of the criminal case because of health reasons.
While the best way to offer this evidence is up to the defendant and his attorney, this evidence could be offered in the form of a signed statement, medical records, recorded statement by the doctor(s), in person testimony offered by the doctor, and statements from the defendant himself.
However, if the defendant is silent on the issue of health and jail is ordered, showing up to the jail with a doctor’s note in hand is going to do little to help him.
If the defendant no-shows at the jail for his surrender, having a doctor’s note after the fact is unlikely to prevent a warrant or other consequences.
Is A Defendant’s Health Condition Relevant?
Yes, a defendant’s health condition is a relevant factor in sentencing, especially if the defendant is seriously ill.
That being said, the jail has the ability to facilitate medical care to inmates, to care for wounds, to dispense medication, and to organize other necessary medical treatment.
Whether that care would rise to the same level of medical care on the outside is another matter entirely.
But again, the time to bring up health is at sentencing, not on the date the defendant is supposed to surrender.
Show up at jail with a doctor’s note is likely to accomplish very little.
What If a Defendant Skipped Jail Because He Was Feeling Ill?
Best practices when a defendant has made a mistake is to take steps immediately to remedy the mistake.
Most likely a warrant has been issued, and the defendant will need to take steps to clear it.
This can be done with the assistance of his attorney (who can make the calls and the arrangements), the defendant can go to the jail and offer to surrender, or the defendant can appear in court to make arrangements for a new surrender date.
If the defendant waits a long time to do this (out of anxiety or apathy), the likelihood of the case getting worse and worse goes up and up.
What If The Defendant Is Really Sick At The Time Of Surrender?
In today’s current climate, if the defendant is truly ill at the time of surrender, he probably has a moral duty to tell the jail that he is ill, and what the illness is.
The jail may make the determination that the defendant should be tested to confirm the defendant’s diagnosis or routed to a specific area in the jail during the illness (like the medical office).
The jail could also make arrangements to reschedule the sentence start date.
The doctor’s note could be provided to the jail staff to support the defendant’s contention that he is ill.
But either way, the solution is to take action before the surrender date passes (meaning don’t no-show).
Questions About Health and Jail?
Better talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney who practices in the court where the defendant’s case is being held.
The attorney will be able to guide the defendant through sentencing, or to resolving whatever mistakes he made by not surrendering at the jail.
Want to learn more about your criminal justice system?
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