Ta-da! You have your first court date for a criminal offense! You’re feeling nervous (despite trying to remain calm and patient). No worries! You’re not alone. Whether being there as a witness or victim of a crime, or as a defendant, court proceedings can be intimidating for all of us, especially when it’s our first time in the courtroom. But knowing how to prepare for a court hearing helps everyone.
Here are six things to take into consideration before going to court. Let’s take a look.
Seek Legal Advice
Legal cases can be complicated and time-consuming. If you have a legal problem, one of the most important things to do is contacting a lawyer. Getting advice from a lawyer is the best way to be sure your legal rights are protected.
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There are certain things you need to do before your hearing to make sure everything goes smoothly. Organize your documents: put together a file with copies of all your court papers and papers from the plaintiff. Make notes of the questions you want to ask: Practice with your attorney what you will say to the court.
Discuss possible questions the other side might ask. Bring any evidence you need to win: If you are supposed to bring evidence (email, text messages, documents, photos, and objects) and witnesses to the courtroom, be sure you bring everything with you on your court date.
Court Dress Code Matters – You Should Dress Conservatively
The courtroom is a formal environment. That’s why you need to look as professional as possible when going to court. Try to dress conservatively and respectfully (dress as if you are going for a job interview or to church)!
Note that most courthouses have a dress code and you may be thrown out for dressing inappropriately (wearing ripped or torn jeans, T-shirts, hats, sunglasses, stiletto heels, etc.)
Wear clothes that are modest, clean and which fit you well. Remember – judges really appreciate and show respect to those that make an effort to dress properly.
You Should Always Be On Time or Early
What if you miss your court date? If you miss your court date or you are late, the judge can dismiss your case or enter a judgment against you. Don’t let that happen! Show up at least one hour early so you can find the courtroom on time, and traffic, parking or weather doesn’t make you late.
‘‘Early is on time, on time is late and late is unacceptable!’’ – Eric Jerome Dickey.
Act Properly in the Courtroom
No matter if you’re in front of a judge because of a traffic violation, a family issue, or a felony offense, if you are the defendant, or a witness, you won’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. Thus it’s crucially important to be on your best behavior. Show respect to the judge and others in the courtroom.
- Rise immediately when the judge enters or leaves.
- Address the judge and court with respect (remember to call the judge “Your Honor”)
- Don’t interrupt and don’t argue
- Be calm and patient
- Don’t wear a hat or sunglasses in the courtroom
- Never chew gum, talk on a cell phone, take pictures, or carry a weapon in the courtroom.
Be Ready to Work
Yes, you are paying an attorney to represent you, but you are still an active participant in the case. So pay close attention to all testimony, take notes during your trial and record anything you agree or disagree with, or want to discuss with your lawyer later.
Keeping these tips in mind will definitely make your court experience less stressful, and help you make the right impression in the courtroom.