A Guide for Your First Time Going to Court as a Criminal Defendant
When to ArriveIt's important to arrive to court on time. By "on time", I mean early. This not only shows the judge and others at court that you respect the court process but it also helps you not to get a warrant for failing to appear to court and/or being charged with failure to appear. Plan to arrive at least 15-20 minutes early. Realize that parking at some courthouses might be so far away from the courthouse that you could be walking several blocks to get inside and when you do get inside you may have to wait your turn going through a metal detector and then waiting on an elevator. It's probably best to drive by the courthouse the day before court so you know exactly where you're going and know where you can park (bring coins with you to pay for parking and realize you could be inside for several hours depending on where you are in line). Arrive as early as you can. Many courts will let attorneys go first and then take all others on a first come first serve basis others may do it differently.
What to WearDress appropriately for court. Either do a web search for the local court rules on proper attire or, better yet, call the clerk's office and ask them what is acceptable and what is not acceptable to wear. Many courts will send people home to change if they show up wearing shorts or t-shirts (which could put you in the predicament of showing up late (see section 1 above).
Do NOT bring anything to the courthouse that is not allowed. Many courts have a listing posted at the entrance of what is allowed and what is not allowed. If you have a lighter, you should leave it in your vehicle or you may be sent back to your vehicle or asked to dispose of it.
Know Where You're GoingIf you show up at the wrong place, you'll find yourself rushing to find the right location and potentially being late. The consequences of that are covered in Section 1 above. It's best to at least call the court clerk and get directions. I say that because if you simply do a web search for where to go, you could find yourself at the historic courthouse or the municipal courthouse when you meant to be at the new county judicial facility (or vice versa).
How to Speak in Court (and when not to)Remember that you're in a courtroom and you should be quite until the judge asks you to speak. Be respectful to the judge, the prosecutor, and the court staff. When addressing the judge you should start or end what you say with either "Your Honor" or "Judge".