What Should I Know to Prepare for My Court Appearance

Whether you’ve retained a lawyer or are representing yourself, these five tips will help you put your best foot forward in court.

1. Be on time.

It may sound simple, but Judges face people every day who are either late or do not show up at all to court. In a world where trials are scheduled several months (sometimes even years) after alleged offences have been committed, court time is at a premium. You do not want to be the reason court is delayed.

2. Avoid fashion faux-pas.

You do not need to wear a formal suit for every court appearance, but you do need to make smart choices on what you decide to wear to court. Avoid t-shirts that advertise liquor or drugs, glorify violence or have inappropriate, sexual or racial visuals, slogans or messages. Save your thug-life, pistol-whipped sweatshirt for another day.

3. Turn your cellphone off.

The last thing you want is to have your cell phone go off in court while you’re waiting for your matter to be called. If your phone goes off, some Judges will immediately stop court, others may pretend like it did not happen. Regardless of how the Judge reacts, you can guarantee they know it was your phone and they will remember that when your matter is called. Do not make things more difficult for yourself, turn off your phone.

4. It’s a courtroom, not a dorm room.

There are no snacks allowed in the courtroom – no coffee, water, nothing. In addition, if you walk into a courtroom with a backpack, a sheriff will walk you out and invite you to check your bag at their office. This is incredibly inconvenient. Plan to eat breakfast before you get to court and do not bring anything with you into the courthouse that you do not absolutely need.

5. If you put it on the internet, the Judge may see it.

There are many things in this world that are private, Facebook, Twitter and social media are not. If you put something on the internet for your friends to see, it is entirely possible that your lawyer may see it too. If your lawyer can see it, then the lawyer on the other side can see it too. At Waugh & Associates, we have seen entire cases derailed by Facebook photos and captions. Even if your account is private, one of your online “friends” still has the ability to print screen captures of your timeline or Messenger conversations and give copies to the other side. It is very difficult to argue against something that can be presented directly before a judge. The general rule, if you can not post anything nice, do not post it at all.

Caution: This is not legal advice, and you should not rely on it as such. To ensure your interests are protected, seek formal advice from a lawyer.