Do you have a court appointment coming up? Are you wondering what you need to do to prepare yourself for your big day?
Going to court and standing in front of a judge can be incredibly nerve-racking, especially if you have money or a jail sentence on the line. Luckily, there are things you can do to better prepare yourself for your big court date.
Check out this guide to learn how to prepare for court.
Dress the Part
First things first, you want to make sure that you’re dressed appropriately for your court hearing. For men, this means wearing:
- Shoes with socks
- Collared shirt, tucked in
- Long pants (if the pants have belt loops, wear a belt)
- A jacket and tie, preferably
For women, this means wearing:
- Closed-toe shoes
- A skirt, dress, or pants
- If wearing a skirt or dress, it should be no more than two inches above the knee
- A sweater, blouse, or casual dress shirt
Whether man or woman, you should avoid wearing:
- Flip flops
- Halters or tube tops
- Torn or ripped jeans
- Baggy pants
- Clothing with emblems that promote illegal activities, violence, drugs, or sex acts
Many states actually publish guidelines detailing what appropriate court wear looks like, so it’s a good idea to look over your state’s guidelines before you choose an outfit.
In addition to wearing the right outfit, you also want to make sure the rest of your look is polished. Your nails should be clean and your hair should be neatly styled.
Be On Time
Showing up late to your court hearing is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.
Courtrooms are on a very tight schedule, and even if you’re just running a few minutes behind, your judge will not hesitate to reschedule your hearing. Also, in some cases, if you fail to show up to court the judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. You will then be required to prove as to why the court shouldn’t hold you in contempt for missing your appearance.
If you are held in contempt of court, you may be required to serve jail time and/or pay a fine.
Bottom line: It’s not worth the risk to show up late for your court hearing. Even if you aren’t held in contempt, showing up late reflects poorly on your character. This is the case whether you’re charged with aggravated assault (you can click here to learn “What is aggravated assault?”) or you’re fighting a parking ticket.
Be Ready to Go Through Security
Most courthouses have security checkpoints at the entrance.
Before entering the court, you’ll usually need to go through a metal detector, so make sure you remove all metal objects from your person. Also, remember that weapons are banned in the courtroom, so don’t bring any along.
If you have tobacco products, it’s best to leave these in your car.
Once you enter the courthouse, it’s important to be respectful toward everyone you encounter.
You never know who you might encounter walking around the courthouse, so it’s important to be polite and always say “thank you”. It just might be that the person you bumped into in the hallway is a lawyer, judge, or jury member.
Know How to Behave Inside the Courtroom
Courtrooms command a different level of respect than most public environments. Here are some things to keep in mind when you enter:
- Listen to the instructions of the court attendant/bailiff (they’ll typically let you know where to sit during the hearing)
- Wait quietly during the hearing until you are asked to speak
- Don’t engage in any side conversations or let your attention wander
- Turn off your cell phone during the proceedings
- Don’t drink, eat, or chew gum during the hearing
- Remain as quiet as possible
Following these guidelines will ensure that you make a good impression on the judge and members of the jury.
Be Aware of Your Body Language
In addition to being quiet and respectful, it’s also very important that you’re aware of your body language during the hearing.
Make sure you don’t roll your eyes and try to maintain a neutral expression. Frowning can be interpreted as disapproval while smiling can be interpreted as cockiness or lack of remorse.
Also, resist the urge to fidget in your seat, and when someone speaks to you, make sure you answer in a clear voice and make eye contact. Remember, if you interrupt the judge, you can be removed from the courtroom, so it’s very important to wait for your turn to speak.
Know How to Act On the Witness Stand
If you’re called to the witness stand, it’s very important that you continue your respectful behavior.
When speaking to the judge, remember to address them as “Your Honor”. When asked questions, answer them truthfully and to the best of your ability. Remember, lying under oath is considered perjury, and it may result in legal charges.
Also, keep in mind that you don’t need to rush your answers. It’s completely acceptable to pause and collect your thoughts before answering. Oftentimes, attorneys will question you in a rapid manner in an attempt to get you to respond quickly and inaccurately.
Don’t give in to this tactic. Collect yourself and answer carefully.
Time to Prepare for Court: Are You Ready?
Now that you know how to prepare for court, it’s time to put these tips into action. Before you know it, your court date will be here and you’ll be ready.
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