Appearing in court on a criminal charge can be intimidating. You may be worried about the consequences, and not knowing what to expect in court can increase your anxiety. Knowing how to prepare yourself to appear in court and what you should do once you are there is an important step in your case. Not understanding the process or being otherwise unprepared for your court date can make it harder to prevail in your case.
First Impressions Matter
One reason why it is so important you prepare well for your court date is because first impressions do matter and can make a big difference in your case. A poor impression left on a judge won't be enough to convict you, but it can hurt your chances at getting a plea bargain or any leniency in your sentencing. Your first court appearance for a criminal charge in California will be the arraignment. At the arraignment, your charges will be read and you will have the chance to enter a plea. You do not have to enter a plea at the arraignment. If you want to speak with an attorney or be assigned a public defender first, you can request that.
If you haven't spoken to an attorney before your first hearing, there are a few things you should know before you show up. First, use common sense. You are going to appear before a judge, and that judge can hand down harsh consequences for your crime. So, pay that judge respect by being on time, staying the whole time, dressing appropriately, turning off your cell phone, leave any weapons at home, arrange for childcare, and display good conduct.
Just like with making a bad impression, making a good one doesn't mean you will get off easy. Part of good conduct in the courtroom is simply following court procedures and part is just making an effort to show the court you are not just another criminal. You are a regular person who made a mistake, you have rights, and you may deserve a second chance. These are all hard statements to make if you dress inappropriately or behave in a disrespectful way.
Whatever you do, don't fail to appear in court because you don't feel ready to. Failure to appear is serious and could result in a warrant being issued for your arrest. You can then be arrested and brought in at any time. At that point, you've already made a bad first impression before you've even had a chance to speak. You may face additional consequences for failing to show up in court depending on your case. For example, if appearing in court is a condition of your probation, you could violate your probation if you fail to appear. You could also face an additional criminal charge for failing to appear in court. This could come with a fine or jail time. Even if you are not given an additional criminal charge, you could be issued a civil penalty with a fee. The court may also place a hold on your driver's license, and you may forfeit any bail you've posted.
Appearing in court on a criminal charge is a serious responsibility. How you conduct yourself in court can influence how a judge or jury views your character. Never underestimate the importance of good first impressions. Your court date is a chance to define how the court sees you, and this is something you should take advantage of. Consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have a court date coming up. An attorney may be able to appear on your behalf, so discuss your options. Even if you must appear in person, an attorney can help you prepare you so you know what you are doing in court. It's important to prepare for your court date, but it's more important you simply show up. Remember, you can always ask to speak with an attorney or be assigned a public defender at your arraignment, but speaking to one beforehand can give you the information and confidence you need to make a good impression.
Are you facing criminal charges? Contact attorney Christopher Martens and his team for legal help in Tulare, Fresno or Kings County. Experienced in criminal defense, Mr. Martens can prepare you for your court date, giving you the best chance at a favorable outcome. With over ten years experience in criminal defense, Attorney Martens has taken over 50 cases to trial and will not be afraid to do the same for you. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.