Going to Court can be a scary and new experience for people. These tips will help you be prepared and take some of your anxiety out of going to Court.
Know Your Court Dates!
This may seem like a simple thing but you will be surprised by how many people miss their court date. If you are issued a citation instead of being arrested, the officer should point you to the bottom of your citation and tell you that you need to appear on a certain date at 1 pm. If you are arrested, your bonding company should give you a sheet of paper that has your court date on it. Mark that immediately in your calendar, reminders app, write it on your hand, or anything to make sure that you are there. If you fail to appear on a court date for a A Misdemeanor charge (i.e. Simple Possession, Vandalism, Drug Paraphernalia) you will then have a FELONY Failure to Appear warrant out for you which will have a bond attached to it. If you fail to appear on a B or C Misdemeanor (i.e. Speeding, Public Intoxication) you will have a A Misdemeanor warrant out for you with a bond attached. If this happens, the Sheriffs Department will come to your house and arrest you. If you realize you have missed your court date, call the Clerks Office immediately! They will tell you what your next steps will be which will usually include coming to the courthouse as soon as possible and pleading your case to the Judge to recall your Failure to Appear warrant..
What is a First Appearance?
First Appearance is not a day where you plead guilty or not guilty, merely it is a day where you show up to court and are handed a reminder slip with your court date on it. Yes, it may seem ridiculous to have to go to court twice for your case but your first appearance court date is very informative. You will be read your rights, informed on the courts procedure, given your trial date and given the opportunity to fill out paperwork for a court appointed attorney. That paperwork is called an affidavit of indigency which asks you about your financial information, how many dependents you have, what bond did you make and other questions to determine if you fall within the income guidelines to qualify. If you qualify you may be able to meet the attorney that will represent you that appearance day and discuss your case with them. Particularly with defendants that live out of county or even out of state, it may seem like a hassle to travel to Williamson County just for a reminder slip. One option that you have is to hire an attorney and then that attorney can fill out paperwork to waive your appearance and just inform you what your trial date will be.
When you go in front of the Judge, you are going in front of a person that may end up deciding on your fate, always remember this! Don't come to court in shorts, spaghetti straps, offensive lettering or revealing clothing. Make sure before going in the courtroom that all electronic devices are on silent or off as you do not want the Sheriff to confiscate your phone. Be prepared to be at court from 8:45-4. Yes, you may be on the docket for 9 am but it is extremely rare to finish the 9 am docket by noon. Have someone on standby to pick up your kids and do not schedule any doctors appointments for this day.
Traffic in the Nashville area is horrendous! Be prepared to be stuck in traffic so leave your area early and plan to get to the courthouse at 8:45 am. Parking in the downtown Franklin area is very limited. What this means is that every one is fighting for parking and the phrase the early bird gets the worm is true when it comes to parking. Also, there are no vending machines in the courthouse at all. Have a big breakfast before court and either bring a lunch or be prepared to go out to eat in downtown Franklin which can be pricey and have long wait times.
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