Your Day in Court
You've been arrested and are facing criminal charges. You have at least one court appearance ahead of you before you can resolve your case and move on with your life. Unfortunately, first impressions are everything. You want the judge to go easy on you, which means you need to get on his or her good side. Appearing in court for criminal charges is a high-stakes event for these reasons. You need to make a good impression to have any hope of a better outcome, but what matters and what doesn't? To help you make a good impression in court, here are our top tips.
Don't show up in court looking like you just rolled out of bed. Judges are people, too. They will make split-second judgments based on your appearance. While this shouldn't influence their ruling, it can. Don't take any chances. Always wear conservative, clean, and business-professional clothes. Think a neutral-toned suit and clean, polished dress shoes. And make sure your clothes are clean. While the judge might not be able to notice if you need to wash or iron your clothes, the prosecution (who will be much closer to you) probably will. It's also a good idea to practice good grooming. Cut your hair or keep it back. Shave and trim your nails. The goal is to “blend in” with the other attorneys and court officials. This takes the focus off the “type” of person you are, which can level the playing field.
In court, you'll have to speak clearly without sounding like you are raising your voice. It's a delicate balance you have to strike to come off as confident yet not aggressive. Practice reading your notes aloud before your hearing. Work on articulation and pace of speech. The judge may ask you to repeat yourself if you speak too quietly or quickly, which can throw you off. Don't be caught off guard, and do practice speaking before the judge beforehand.
It's natural to feel unprepared for your criminal court hearing. Your arraignment is your first court date at which the judge will read your charges. Before this point, you might not have much information about your case. It's OK to not know what to do at your arraignment. Just make sure you don't make any important decisions before you speak with an attorney. Don't enter a plea at your arraignment. Get the information you need about your charges, and then speak with an attorney about the penalties you could face and what your options are. If you don't understand something in court, make sure you get clarification from an attorney or public defender.
Also, know the rules of the court. Nothing can leave a bad impression on a judge like speaking when you're not supposed to or entering the courtroom late. The more you can show you know, the better impression you will make. The judge wants to know that you are invested in your future. If you show you don't care about your future by ignoring the court rules or not understanding your charges, the judge may think you need a harsher punishment to rehabilitate you.
Show that you understand the gravity of your charges and are taking them seriously. Likewise, be humble and respectful in court. Nothing will get you on the judge's bad side quicker than an overly confident and cocky attitude. If you're being sentenced, make sure you demonstrate to the judge that you are ready and willing to take steps to serve your debt to society and change your ways. Common courtesy, such as saying please, thank you, and your Honor, is important, too.
These tips should help you make a good impression in court. But making a good impression is just the beginning. You also need to make strategic decisions in your case, such as how to plead and whether to go to trial. Consult with a skilled California criminal defense attorney if you are facing criminal charges. An attorney can help you make a good impression and make good decisions so that you can minimize the negative consequences of your charges.
If you are facing criminal charges, take action before it's too late. Contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for help in Tulare, Fresno, or Kings County. Experienced in criminal defense and record cleaning, our Visalia area legal team can help you fight your charges and clear your name. Attorney Martens has over ten years experience in criminal defense and won't be afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.