Tips for Your First Time in Court
If you have your first–ever court appearance coming up, it’s understandable that you might be a little anxious. Even if you’re dealing with something small like a traffic ticket, a loan repayment, or a dog bite — it can be nerve–racking. It’s a totally new experience for you, and court can be very intimidating. Also, you may have already had problems resolving your legal issue, if you weren’t able to take care of it outside of the court system. Here at Dutko Law, we’re here to help. We want to make sure that your court date goes smoothly. That’s why we put together some helpful tips for your first time in court.
1. Hire a Lawyer
Getting an attorney is one of our first tips for the courtroom. Hiring a lawyer may actually save you money in the long run. An experienced attorney knows the ins and outs of the legal system and the courtroom. They can fully prepare you for your time in court and be there for you during your appearance. Additionally, a lawyer will help you put together your case and argue it for you effectively. Whether you’re looking for a family attorney or a criminal or age discrimination lawyer, contact us at Dutko Law today. We proudly serve Reading and Allentown as well as Berks, Lehigh, and Northampton counties.
Make Sure You’re Organized
You don’t want to forget anything you might need in court. So, make sure that you have your paperwork or anything else you may need before you leave for court. Make extra copies to leave with the judge and the opposing lawyer. If you have any physical evidence or photographs, bring that along too. Telling the judge that you have proof is not the same thing as physically showing the proof. If you don’t have the proof with you, the judge will most likely disregard it. You may also want to bring a notebook to take notes on things you agree/disagree with or issues you want to discuss with your lawyer later. Furthermore, make sure you speak with your attorney and your witnesses before the actual court date. Ask your witnesses to dress nicely and arrive at the court early.
3. Figure Out What Outfit You’re Going to Wear to Court
Appearance does matter. Your best suit and tie combo may not be required, but you should dress like you’re going to a formal job interview or business meeting. Neutral colors with a simple pattern and cut are preferred. You also want to make sure that your accessories, hairstyle, shoes, and makeup all look professional and conservative. Although, make sure you’re comfortable in the clothes that you’re wearing, and they fit well. If you’re fidgeting with your clothes in the courtroom, it might make you look guilty. Every judge is different. It’s hard to say how a certain judge will react if they see tattoos, piercings, a shirt with curse words on it, etc.
4. Don’t Show Up Late for Your Court Appearance
Figure out your route ahead of time and visit the court once before you actually have to make your appearance, which you really can’t miss or reschedule. In this situation, it’s much better to be early than stylishly late. Having to wait for an hour or two is a lot better than having a warrant put out on you for missing your court hearing. If something comes up, and there’s no way you’re going to make it on time — notify your attorney and the judge’s clerk about the situation. Additionally, try to take the entire day off. You’ll be under less stress if you don’t have to rush from work to court to another appointment afterward. Speak to your boss and try to take the entire day off, if at all possible. If you have children, try to find a source of childcare for the whole day.
5. Sit Near the Front of the Court
It may help you if you can see what’s going on in the other cases and get a feel for what the judge will ask you. When the clerk calls the name of your case, you’ll be right there, ready to go. You may have already been waiting for a while, and the judge probably has a lot of cases on the docket. It helps everyone involved if you can move the process along. Plus, there may only be a few minutes for you to represent your case.
6. Stay Calm and Relaxed
You may feel stressed out about your court appearance, but cooler heads tend to prevail inside the courtroom. You want to try to make a good first impression with the judge. It’s best to keep a level head and not get yourself worked up. Erupting into a heated argument with your opposition probably isn’t going to help your case. Rolling your eyes and giving looks of disapproval also won’t go over well with most judges. You should stay quiet and act respectfully and politely towards everyone while you’re in court. There will be eyes on you no matter where you are in the building. The judge may notice it when you act rudely towards the clerk. If the judge speaks to you directly, address him or her as “your honor.” Your attorney can talk with you about proper courtroom etiquette and anything specific you should know about the court you’re going to. Moreover, don’t forget to turn off your cell phone or pager inside the courtroom.
7. Tell the Truth
If you’re wondering how to speak in court, you’ve come to the right place. You shouldn’t lie or even exaggerate a tiny bit — it could jeopardize your case. Judges can pick up on anything that’s false. They listen to people’s stories every single day they’re in court. Also, talk to the judge in your own words. Don’t plan out a speech and try to memorize it.
8. Thank the Judge
It’s important to listen to what the judge has to say. The judge could make a decision that day or decide to schedule another hearing. Make sure you know what your next steps are before you leave the courtroom. Even if the hearing doesn’t go your way, thank the judge for his/her time and consideration before you leave. Once you make it through your first time in court, you’ll be more prepared for any subsequent hearings. We hope that these tips for court helped.