Q May a municipal court initiate non-traffic related misdemeanor prosecutions by way of an affidavit of complaint in lieu of an arrest warrant, and if the defendant fails to appear to answer to the affidavit, may he be tried in absentia?

A Yes, pursuant to Section 21-23-7(1), the court has the authority to initiate non-traffic related misdemeanors by way of a sworn complaint which shall state the essential elements of the offense charged and the statute or ordinance relied upon. It is in the discretion of the court whether to issue a citation or an arrest warrant requiring the appearance of the defendant to answer the charge. If, with consideration for the circumstances of the case at hand, the conditions of Section 21-23-7(9) are met, the court could proceed with the prosecution or trial in absentia. The charge could also be initiated by the filing of a criminal affidavit and the issuance of an arrest warrant, or the charge could be initiated by the process set forth in Section 99-3-18. (Attorney General’s Opinion to Nowak June 24, 2016)