If you’ve never been to court before, your first appearance can be nerve-wracking. Facing a judge is an intimidating prospect, and having to answer for your accusations is serious business. Being nervous actually isn’t a bad thing—it shows you take your matter seriously and are giving it the respect you deserve. However, you also do need to take your case seriously, and preparation can go a long way towards starting your case off on the right foot. Making a mistake could seriously jeopardize your case, and you could even make one before your first appearance has even started.
Here are a few important DO’s and DON’Ts for your first appearance in court.
DO Dress Appropriately
Court is not a place for “casual Friday.” This is a place where matters are adjudicated in accordance with the law, and they command your highest levels of respect. You should dress appropriately to show that respect. Gentlemen should wear a long-sleeve collared shirt and tie, slacks, and dress shoes. A business suit would also do nicely. Ladies should wear an appropriate blouse, suit pants, or a skirt that comes up no higher than the knee, along with shoes that have no more than an inch of heel. Both ladies and gentlemen are discouraged from wearing bright colors—blues, greys, and blacks are the most appropriate, and do not wear a hat, as you won’t be permitted to wear it indoors.
DON’T Be Late
It is extremely important that you arrive on time and are ready to begin when your hearing is scheduled. This means leave early, plan your route ahead of time, and leave plenty of room for traffic. You will want to arrive to the courthouse at least 45 minutes early, as you’ll need to go through security, register with the clerk, and then wait for your hearing to be called. Even if your court has a notorious reputation for starting late, don’t assume that your case will be the same. Judges don’t take kindly to tardiness.
DO Treat Everyone You Meet With Respect
The judge is not the only one in a courtroom who will have an influence over your case—everyone from the clerks to the bailiffs could also have an impact on your DUI case. Judges care deeply about their staff because they know that without them the courtroom would be a disorganized, chaotic mess that they’d have no hope of ever operating. If you mouth off to a bailiff or are disrespectful to a clerk, make no mistake, your judge will hear about it. And judges who find out their staff has been abused are not usually ones who are willing to be lenient with their abusers. Be kind, respectful, and cooperative with everyone in the courtroom who you come into contact with.
DON’T Leave Your Cell Phone On During Your Hearing
Speaking of things that can make a judge irate in a hurry, being interrupted by a cell phone chirping or even quietly buzzing is right up there towards the top of the list. Having your cell phone on makes you seem disinterested uncaring about the matter you’re dealing with, and implies you aren’t taking the issue seriously if you’re preoccupied with something outside the courtroom. Before your hearing begins, either put your phone in silent mode, or better yet, shut it off entirely.
DO Sit Quietly & Only Speak When Spoken To
Courtrooms are places to show respect, and if you do, you’ll be shown respect in return. During your hearing, listen closely to whoever is speaking and pay attention. You may be asked something at nearly any time, and it’s not a good idea to have to ask whoever was speaking to repeat themselves. Likewise, while someone else is speaking, don’t try to whisper questions to your attorney or converse with anyone else alongside you. There will be times where you can do that, but while someone else is speaking is not one of them.
DON’T Speak Out of Turn
Similarly, there are those who think that it’s within their right to speak out of turn or simply interrupt their prosecutor by standing up and yelling “OBJECTION” when they hear something they don’t like. Do not do this; this is purely a plot device for television, and is in no way reflective of normal courts as a whole. Even if your prosecutor starts saying things that are wildly untrue or even slanderous to you and your name, sit quietly and wait your turn. Your Birmingham DUI attorney with you is also taking note of the things being said, and also likely has a plan for how to turn them back on the prosecution to defend you. If you have any questions for your attorney, wait until a recess or another opportunity where this is allowed and ask them then.
Make sure you have representation from a Birmingham DUI attorney for your case as well! Call Tidwell Law Group, LLC at (205) 536-7770 today to request a consultation and get the help you need when fighting for your rights.