The following is a list of 10 tips I give people for going to court. If you follow these simple rules, you will be much more likely to receive a favorable outcome.
1. Determine whether you need an Attorney.
You must first determine whether you will need to hire an attorney to represent you in the pending court action. Ask yourself, “Am I okay if things do not work out my way in court?” You probably need to hire an attorney if the answer is - NO. If you need to hire an attorney, hire them early. Do not wait until the day before trial.
2. Start planning for court early.
As soon as you realize you will have to go to court on a matter, determine what: witnesses, documents, photos, videos, audio recordings, text messages, emails, etc. you will need to defend yourself. Go to the clerk of court and ask that a subpoena be issued for those things or people. Bring all items to court with you. Note that the court WILL NOT consider the sworn affidavit of a witness. The witness MUST be there in person to testify.
3. Don’t assume everything is going to miraculously go your way.
You should plan for the worst, and hope for the best. For example – if you receive a speeding ticket, start saving money to pay the fine. If you win, and get the ticket dismissed, you can spend the money on something else. But, if you are ordered to pay a fine/fees, you will be able to pay some and avoid problems.
4. Keep the court and your attorney informed of your current address and phone number.
If you move, or change your phone number, you should immediately notify the court and your attorney (if you have one) in writing of the change. This will insure that you are properly notified of court hearings and that your attorney can reach you.
5. Plan to be in court all day.
Do not assume that you will be in and out of court quickly. Make plans to be there all day. Court’s often have lengthy dockets. Whereas, they want to get everyone out as quickly as possible, it just is not usually possible. Complaining that you have to be at work, have a medical important, or better things to do will not put you in a good light with the court.
6. Dress appropriately.
Do not show up for court wearing: flip-flops, shorts, cutoffs, bathing suits, ripped jeans, revealing skirts or blouses, t-shirts (especially those with offensive writing), muscle / wife beater shirts, hats or sun glasses. Shower, shave and dress nice for court.
7. Arrive at least 15 minutes before court starts.
Plan to be sitting in court 15 minutes before court is scheduled to begin. Remember that many things can delay you, such as: traffic jams, wrecks, car problems, lack of adequate parking, security screenings (including emptying pockets and showing identification) before entering the courtroom, long lines of people trying to enter the courtroom. You do not want to call attention to yourself by being late! It shows a lack of respect for the court. Finally, being late can get you held in contempt, fined, jailed and/or put last on the docket. If you absolutely cannot avoid being late, call the clerk of court and ask them to notify the judge (and give an estimate as to how late you will be).
8. Listen to the judge and/or court staff carefully.
Most sessions of court start by the judge or court staff giving instructions. The information being given will often tell you important things about what to expect and how best for you to have your rights protected. So pay attention.
9. Be respectful of everyone.
Having a bad attitude and acting annoyed that you are required to be there will get you nothing except more problems. You are being judged from the moment you walk into the courtroom. Showing respect for the court and the people there will often pay great dividends. So, be respectful to the: judge, court staff, attorneys, witnesses (even those against you), police officers and other people in court. Never interrupt anyone (especially the judge) while they are talking. Remember the old saying, “You can catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar.”
10. Read all documents before you sign them.
Once you sign a document, the court will presume you understood everything in that document. Thus, it is important that you read each and every document you are asked to sign carefully. Do not worry if it seems to hold up proceeding while you read. Your rights and understanding of what is going on is worth the wait.
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