By William L. Baskette, Esq.
If you find yourself having to go to court as a Defendant, the number one rule is BE THERE ON TIME. The court system runs on its own schedule, not yours. The consequences of arriving late, or not at all, are a jail cell and the possibility of not getting out on bail.
Once you are notified that you must go to court, familiarize yourself with the courthouse and which court you must attend. If you wait until the morning of your appearance, you may be lost when the bailiff is calling out your name. Go there the day before or earlier. On the day of your appearance, go early to find parking, to pass through security (where there may be a long line) and to find your courtroom.
As soon as you find the courtroom, look for your lawyer. If he is not there, tell the bailiff inside the courtroom the name of your lawyer and your name. It is possible that the attorney has already phoned the court to let the judge know if he is in another court that morning. When the door is opened, find a seat and sit down. When your name is called, stand up and answer HERE! It is best to leave your relatives and friends outside unless they are needed to translate for you. Children do not belong in Court, so please leave them at home and definitely do not bring crying babies into the courtroom.
How do I dress? You are dressing to impress the judge that you are a responsible person. How would you dress for a job interview? For a church service on a special holy day? T-shirts and loose jeans may be comfortable, but they may show the court a lack of respect. Be sure to shower and groom yourself before going to court. Ask your lawyer if you have any questions. If the judge sees that you dress like a respectful and responsible person, he may trust you more. If you show up in a T-shirt or ragged jeans with bad breath, he may wonder how nice you’ll look in a jail uniform.
Take your court appearance seriously. To avoid confusion ask you lawyer to always give you your scheduled court dates in writing. Call you lawyer the day before your appearance to make sure he will be there on time or late. If you have car trouble, then you’d better leave two hours early or call a cab or take a bus. You should make the best impression possible if you are looking for the best result. Even if your lawyer is late, the court expects you to be there on time.