What to expect from your day in court
If you’re facing a criminal charge, you might wonder what to expect on court day. Even looking at a courthouse can be daunting for a person who has to go stand in front of a judge. Here are some tips for walking into court prepared:
What to do before your court date
Your day in court starts long before the big day arrives. You should learn about the type of hearing that you’re going to have and the possible outcomes. You should find a nice outfit that’s businesslike. Find out where the courthouse is and double and triple check the time that you need to be there. Keep your hearing notice in a safe place, or even take a picture of it, so you can’t lose it.
How an attorney can help
If your first hearing is an arraignment, you enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, and you talk about bond. It’s important to have a defense attorney at this stage, because they can help you negotiate favorable bond conditions. For example, many defendants need to be able to work while the case pends in court, and your attorney can look at your bond conditions to make sure that none of them are going to interfere with your work. In addition, if the state wants to deny bond or set a very high amount, your defense attorney can tell the court why a lower bond is more appropriate.
When you get to court
When you arrive at court, you probably need to check in with a court clerk. That lets them know that you’re there and ready for the court hearing. In some cases, there’s paperwork to fill out. Usually this is a paper that tells you your constitutional rights.
You should arrive at court at least fifteen minutes before your scheduled hearing. Your case might be the first to be called, and it might be the last to be called. Bring a pen and a checkbook or credit card in case you need to post a bond or pay fees.
The possible outcomes on a day in court depend on the purpose of the hearing. If you’re scheduled for an arraignment or a pre-trial conference, it’s not likely that you need to be prepared to go to jail. However, if you’re facing an allegation of a bond violation, a trial or sentencing, jail is more of a possibility. If you’re facing a hearing where you might go to jail, taking care of any pertinent personal affairs before the hearing can be helpful, because the judge might order that you go directly to jail from the courtroom.
Depending on the type of hearing, the state or the court might dismiss your case. The state might extend a plea offer. The court might schedule future court dates. If you have a trial, the jury may find you guilty or not guilty.
Preparing for a sentencing hearing
Perhaps there’s no hearing where preparation is more important than your sentencing hearing. At a sentencing hearing, both the state’s attorney and the defense have the opportunity to show the judge why they believe the proposed sentence is appropriate or not. It’s important to have a contrite, apologetic statement for the judge about the offense. If you’re a reliable employee, your employer might offer a letter of support. Friends and family members can help by writing letters of support too. Your defense attorney can help you prepare an organized and effective sentencing presentation.
After sentencing, you might be ordered to jail. If you’re ordered to spend time on probation you might have to meet with your probation officer. You’ll likely need to stop at the clerk’s window to pay fines and receive other information and paperwork.
A defense attorney is crucial to the process of defending yourself in court with all its formalities, rituals and procedures. You’re already stressed out enough, why not have some help? Tate Law Group has vast experience with local courts and judges, so call us for help if you need it.