Preparing for your court date
Whether it is your first time in court for a criminal or civil matter, preparing for court is largely the same either way. Being prepared will give off a vibe of confidence that others in the courtroom will notice. Follow these seven steps to properly prepare for your day in front of the judge.
1. Talk to your lawyer
This one may seem obvious, but lawyers are specifically trained and experienced for the courtroom. They went to years of school for this craft and they will be able to you exactly what you need to prepare. If s/he doesn’t give you specific instructions or too many tasks, don’t fear. This is likely because the appearance won’t require massive amounts of preparation. If you are confused about the process, your lawyer is paid to explain where your case is in the process and will explain it to you.
2. Prepare your best clothing
If you look good, you will feel good. This is commonly accepted and it is known for a reason. However, dressing well serves an extremely important secondary function. How you dress strongly influences how people look at you. When the judge and opposing counsel see you, you want them to have a good first impression of you. If you are a man, you will want to put on a jacket and tie. The more formal you dress, the more impressive you will appear. However, the key to dressing nicely for court is dressing conservatively. If you are a woman, you will want to dress as conservative as possible. Muted colors will go a long way and be careful with your jewelry. Less is more when it comes to earrings and necklaces. It is also imperative to realize that your clothes will also reveal your financial background. If you are trying to keep that a secret, keep that in mind when you dress for court.
3. Know why you are appearing
There are two different reasons you are going to court, a civil case or a criminal case. If you are going to court for a criminal case, you are likely going for an arraignment. This is where you are asked to plead guilty, or not guilty. This is a straightforward process and it is not the time to attempt to argue your case. Do not try to get a word in to the judge about your case because it will be looked at as disrespectful and may result in an argument which will count against your case.
For civil court, you should talk to your attorney to figure out what your responsibilities will be for court. Your lawyer will prepare most of the necessary documents that you need to file and will have an idea of the motions. It is important to inquire whether or not you will be asked to speak as you will want some time to prepare beforehand.
4. Respect the court and its process
The courtroom process is a long standing tradition with its own set of rules and procedures. Lawyers and especially judges take the process extremely seriously. Understanding courtroom procedures is what will make the difference between seeming like a respectful citizen and someone who is looking to cause trouble.
One of the most important things to remember is to never talk over anyone. This especially includes the judge as they are rarely in the mood to argue with a citizen. If you look around the courtroom you will see that lawyers may openly disagree with what a judge is saying but they still keep quiet at all times. When addressing the court, it is important to always refer to them as “your honor.” In some scenarios, people will say “sir or ma’am” but going with the former will give you a better chance of seeming to respect the courtroom procedure.
5. Do your research
Take the time to understand legal precedent. You may not completely understand legal research such as criminal lawyers Potts, but if you have access to the internet or a library, you can educate yourself on your case. One of the biggest ideas to understand is the concept of precedent. Precedent is the concept of previous similar ruling within a district will hold for similar cases. If you have an attorney, they can explain this concept to you and let you know their strategy.
When researching cases, you want to make sure your research is limited to cases in your jurisdiction. If you are in California, chances are that an Arkansas court ruling has no bearing on your ruling. Further, different counties or cities will have different precedent. If a case in your jurisdiction has very similar facts and was decided in one way, it is likely that it will be decided the same way due to precedent. If in your research you find that your case is similar to a losing case, don’t lose hope. It is your (or your lawyer’s) job to take your case and differentiate it from the losing case. If there is a similar case in your jurisdiction with a positive outcome, try to make your case seem as close to that other case as possible.
6. Don’t try to be a lawyer
Another way to say this is to be yourself. Lawyers are familiar with the courtroom process and have knowledge of precedents and other legal matters that might be out of your wheelhouse. If you show up and attempt to play the part of a lawyer from Law and Order, it will show and you are basically challenging the opposing counsel to bring their ‘A’ game. You may be extremely knowledgeable about your case, but you want to remain quiet and humble. It will go a long way when you have your chance to finally show what you have researched.
7. Be Patient
Once you arrive, check in with the court and opposing counsel. There is a good chance that your appearance is scheduled along with many others. Many courtrooms go in alphabetical order so understand that you might be waiting for a few hours.