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Do's & Don'ts For Your First Day in Court


If you’ve never been to court before and you have your first appearance day coming up soon, you more than likely are facing a whirlwind of emotions that can include anxiousness, confusion, and even a good helping of nerves. It’s perfectly normal—facing a judge for the first time is an intimidating prospect. However, it’s also something that you can prepare for, and preparation is a good thing if you want to start your case off on the right foot.

When going to court, your appearance will matter, how you act will matter, and what you say will be extremely important. Thus, there are certain things you should do, and certain mistakes that you should avoid which are far more common than you might think.

Here are some fairly common, simple, and easy to follow do’s and don’ts for your first day in court.

DO dress appropriately. Court is not a place for going casual. It’s a place that demands your best, and you should show it that respect. Dressing poorly will reflect badly on your character, showing that you have little interest in taking things seriously. Thus, your judge will feel very little motivation to be lenient with you. Gentlemen should wear a nice business suit or a shirt and tie with dress slacks and dress shoes at the very minimum. Ladies should wear a skirt that is at least knee-length, professional blouse, and close-toed shoes with no more than an inch or two of heel. This is also not a time for loud colors—greys, dark blues, blacks, and browns are ideal. Do not wear a hat.

DON’T be late. Assume your hearing will begin right at the assigned time, and tardiness is severely frowned upon. Plan your route ahead of time, leave plenty early, and anticipate arriving well before your appointment. We strongly advise being at least an hour early. It will take time to get through security to get into the building. There will be a line early in the morning. And you should expect another line when you need to check in with the court clerk.

DO remain quiet, respectful, and attentive throughout your hearing. Pay attention to who is speaking and what is being said. Do not outburst in response, even if you feel as though what is being said is entirely false and a blatant slander against your character. Your time to defend yourself will come, and you have a Bergen County criminal defense attorney to help you with that. They hear what’s being said as well, and they more than likely have a plan on when they wish to use it against your prosecution. Do not speak unless you are spoken to.

DON’T leave your cell phone on. Turn it off completely. Interruptions due to cell phones are a massive waste of everyone’s time, and a sure-fire way to enrage your judge. Turn it back on again either during a recess or when your case has adjourned for the day. When you’re in the courtroom and proceedings are moving forward, your phone should be off at all times.

DO address the judge as “your honor.” This is not something that’s just made up for television shows; judges command respect, and they expect it to be given. Most judges will forgive one accidental mistake, as they understand what it’s like to be nervous in a courtroom. However, repeated failure or obvious lack of care will put you squarely on their bad side, and you can expect no leniency from them.

DON’T be rude, disruptive, or abusive to courtroom staff. Judges hear everything that goes on, and they care deeply for those who work hard to make their courtroom run smoother. If you mouth off to the courtroom clerk or give them a hard time about something, your judge will hear about it. That’s going to get you on their bad side in a hurry. Be quiet, polite, and respectful to everyone in the building.

Make sure you have a Bergen County criminal defense attorney standing by your side when you face your charges! Call the Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC today at (201) 574-7919 to request a case evaluation.
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