Former Prosecutor's Tips: Preparing for Court
Individuals who come to court are usually facing a difficult situation. You want to achieve the best possible result. From my experience as a prosecutor, here are some important tips to keep in mind when preparing for court.
Know Your Court Date and CourtroomIf you have been charged with a criminal offense or traffic violation and must appear in court, then you need to determine when you should appear in court and which courtroom to appear. This information should be on your charging document (e.g. traffic citation, criminal summons, magistrate's order, warrant). Also, you can use the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts' website to check the court calendar for your county. Further, if you have hired an attorney, he/she should remind you of your court date. However, it is ultimately up to you to make sure that you are in court.
Do not miss court or be late for court. In addition, do not leave the courtroom without permission. If you have a dire emergency and must leave the courtroom while court is in session, make sure that your attorney, a bailiff, or someone in the courtroom knows where you are going (e.g. the restroom) and when you will return. If the prosecutor calls your case and you are not present, then the judge may issue an order for your arrest.
What to Bring/Not Bringo Bring a positive and respectful attitude.
o Bring any materials/documents relevant to your case. These items may include a copy of your ticket or charging document, documentation of community service hours (if applicable), and a written statement to read during sentencing (if you plead guilty). If you have an attorney, then you will likely have reviewed all this information in advance.
o Do not bring weapons (regardless of whether you have a permit to carry the weapon), sharp objects, including pocket knives or brass knuckles, laser pointers, drugs/alcohol.
o If you bring a cell phone, turn it off before entering any courtroom. Make sure that your courthouse permits cell phones in the building.
Appropriate AttireAny time you appear in court you are making an impression on the prosecutor, the judge, and the jury. Your attire should reflect that impression. Do not wear T-shirts, shorts, or clothing with inappropriate symbols or comments. (For example, do not wear shirts with a marijuana leaf or shirts that promote illegal activities or include inappropriate comments or language.) Men should always keep shirts tucked in and should never wear hats or sunglasses inside the courtroom.
If you have medical issues that require the use of items such as sunglasses, then be sure to inform your attorney and the bailiffs.
Appropriate BehaviorJust like your attire, your behavior and conduct in court makes an impression on the prosecutor, the judge, and the jury. Do not laugh or talk in court. Do not chew gum, especially when standing before the judge and talking with the judge. Again, turn off your cell phone (assuming it is permitted in the courthouse) before entering the courtroom.
If someone says something that you do not like, stay calm and act professionally. Your attorney can address any issue. Do not show contempt for any witness or court official. Never interrupt the judge, the prosecutor, or a witness and do not try to talk over anyone.
If you have an attorney, do not make any comments without checking with your attorney first. Remember, the prosecutor can always use any statements or actions against you. If you are answering questions from the judge or the prosecutor, always be honest.
DisclaimerThe information included in this Guide is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and, therefore, does not create an attorney/client relationship with anyone.