It should come as no surprise that actual appearances in court are not like those portrayed on TV and in the movies. Defendants charged with anything ranging from a traffic offense to a felony need to understand that their appearance and behavior will be judged by judges and juries. How you present yourself matters, and in some cases, it could help you get the outcome you desire.
Experienced criminal defense lawyers try to prepare their clients for the courtroom experience. Much of the preparation will involve anticipating what questions might be asked. Some of the practical suggestions the attorney will explain are:
- Hire a lawyer. The old saying is still true – Only a fool has himself for a client. Aside from two heads being better than one, a skilled defense lawyer understands what legal arguments to make, which facts to emphasize, and what issues to avoid, if possible.
- Dress as nicely as you can. A court appearance is not the time to emphasize your personal style. Men should wear a suit or a sport jacket, or at least a clean, pressed shirt and nice pants. Both men and women should wear dress shoes. (Don’t wear flip-flops or sneakers. If that is all you own, tell us first, so we can help you get what you need.) Ladies should dress modestly. Defendants should also be properly groomed. This means combing or brushing your hair and taking a shower. Men should shave or trim their beards and moustaches.
- Be on time. It’s a sign of disrespect when you make the judge wait. If the judge calls your case and you’re not there, it will leave a negative impression that will last through your whole case. Aim to be an hour early for any court appearance.
- Be polite. Answer the questions. Leave the arguments for your lawyer. Speak clearly so the Judge, prosecutor, and jury can hear you, and avoid any temptation to be sarcastic or rude. This is not the time.
- Be prepared. Your lawyer will prep you for your appearance, asking questions that he or she thinks will likely be posed to you. Once you are in the courtroom, make sure you understand any questions. If you’re not sure what the question is, ask for the question to be repeated. Don’t volunteer information. If a judge or lawyers wants more information, he/she can always ask another question.
- Be aware of your body language. Judges and members of the jury will notice if you smirk, frown, or if you’re agitated. You don’t need to be ice-cold but know that how you move and make non-verbal responses will be eyed by others in the courtroom. Even though you may have every right to be angry about an issue, judges and juries don’t like it when you yell, cuss, or “act out.”
- Bring your documentation. If you have any documents you need for court, such as your driver’s license, be sure to have them with you. Your attorney will have the majority of your paperwork – your arrest record, a copy of the police report, etc. – but there may be documentation which you personally need to provide.
- Don’t look to settle any scores. Avoid getting into any arguments with the people who filing charges against your or who will serve as witnesses.
The experienced criminal defense lawyers at Carey Law Office understand that winning cases involves legal arguments, the facts of the cases, and many practical techniques. Our team has acquired these skills during our 40 years or representation of Maryland defendants. We have offices in Bowie and Crofton. Call us today at 301-464-2500 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment.