How Do I Prepare for Court?

Court, to many, is a new experience.  With new experiences there is often anxiety and worry that accompany such an experience.  The following are general tips related to court appearances.  This blog is not intended to be a substitute to hiring a lawyer to properly assert or defend your interests:

  1.  It is recommended that you hire an experienced lawyer if you don’t have a lawyer already.  You are at a disadvantage if you do not have a lawyer, because lawyers have the skills, knowledge of the law, and the expertise to help you get the best possible result.  Persons that are not lawyers that represent themselves are held to the same standard as a lawyer.  The same rules of procedure and rules of evidence apply.  Persons that are indigent can request a public defender for criminal cases and child protective services parental rights cases.
  2. Make sure that you are aware of the time and location for your court hearing.  Failure to appear, or not appearing timely, can result in a bad result.  For criminal cases not appearing or being late can result in a bench warrant.  For civil cases, the failure to appear or appearing late can result in a negative result, and in some cases even having a judgment or order entered against you.  Make sure you are aware of rush hour traffic, construction, or other issues that may delay you.  If you are going to be late, make sure you call and discuss it with your lawyer.  If you do not have a lawyer, contact the court.  The court may or may not excuse your tardiness.  If you have a criminal matter and you do not have a lawful ability to drive an automobile it is advisable to find a ride or alternative transportation.  Many courts inquire as to how you got to court – especially if it is related to a bond condition.
  3. Bring any relevant paperwork with you.  For criminal cases the relevant paperwork may be proof that you are complying with bond conditions; it may be letters on your behalf; it may be proof that you are prescribed certain medications; it may be evidence connected to your case; it may be a travel itinerary related to a request to leave the State.  Do not assume that you will have additional time to present the court with paperwork relevant to your case.
  4. Only discuss your case with your lawyer, and only when you are in a private location, if you are represented by counsel.  It is advisable to discuss your case with your lawyer prior to your court date so you are adequately prepared as to what will occur and to reduce the chances of any surprises.
  5. Know courtroom decorum.  For example, some courts will not let you bring a cell phone or any device with a camera into the courtroom.  This can be problematic if you are dropped off at court and have no place to store the cell phone.  Some courts have policies with regard to dress codes.  It is a wise idea to dress appropriately for court, because you may be judged negatively or positively by the court for the way your present yourself.  Some courts do not allow young children that are disruptive or making noise into the courtroom.
  6. Do not come to court under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  This may seem obvious, but it happens frequently enough to merit mentioning here.
  7. If necessary, bring a support person with you such as a parent, friend, employer, AA sponsor or anyone that is supportive of you.   Most court proceedings are open to the general public.  Court can be intimidating, and sometimes it is best not to come alone.
  8. If you are not a United States citizen and you have a criminal related case get immigration advice before you resolve your case.  If you have a professional license, it is important to know whether or not a conviction could affect your livelihood.  Some convictions can cause the loss or suspension of driving privileges.  Be aware of all the potential consequences before you resolve your case.
  9. If you need to address the court in some sort of way, you may want to think about what you are going to say before you get to court.  If necessary, write down your thoughts on a piece of paper.  If you have a lawyer, discuss with your lawyer what you are going to say.
  10. If there is a chance that you are going to be incarcerated, make sure you have made arrangements in advance.  If you have minor children, pets, or care for someone that is old or infirm that you care for make sure there is someone available to take care of your loved ones.  Make sure that your property is cared for.  If there is a chance you could be evicted, make sure your valuables are stored someplace safe.  If you drove to court, there is a chance your car could become impounded depending upon where you park.  You may want to arrange for a ride or call an Uber.  You may want to have some money available for your commissary or other jail account.

Again, it is strongly recommended for any legal matter involving the court system that you hire an experienced lawyer.  For any legal issue in Michigan I recommend attorney Daniel Hilf of the law firm Hilf & Hilf, PLC.  He has a proven track record and will provide you with the type of legal representation that you need.