Our criminal law firm defends individuals charged with a variety of offenses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We strive to ensure that all of our clients are able to contest accusations outside of custody and on bail as opposed to being held prior to trial or final disposition of their matter in a local county jail. When a client is on bail, it’s important that they understand that with that freedom comes an obligation to appear for each and every court appearance and over the course of a decade I have identified five things that every client must do before walking into court to improve their probability of success.
- Be on time
I can’t tell you how many clients fail to appear on time for court. While being late, in and of itself, will more than likely will not affect a judge or jury’s determination as to your guilt, it certainly will not help. I recommend to all my clients arriving at least 15 minutes prior to the start of court. Please understand that your criminal defense lawyer, in most cases, will have several courtrooms to attend to, in addition to your case. It is not unusual for an attorney to arrive after the judge has taken the bench, because unlike the client, the attorney must appear before several judges in one or multiple courthouses over the course of a single day.
- Courtroom Attire
Appearance is important in court and I recommend that clients never wear jeans, sneakers, flip flops, t-shirts, or sweatshirts, to any courtroom regardless of the severity of the charges. Obviously a strong appearance is important in front of a jury, but judges also pay attention to what individuals wear to court. While a person does not need to wear a suit, I recommend collared shirts and slacks for men and conservative dress for women. The fact that a person has paid a substantial amount of money for an article of clothing is irrelevant to whether it is appropriate for court, as many individuals will pay more money for jeans and sneakers than a pair of dress slacks and shoes.
- Stop Talking
One of the worst things a person can do is speak to their attorney when he is trying to listen to a witness, or worse, a judge. If you have a question write it down and give it to your lawyer but don’t attempt to speak while your lawyer is trying to gather information about your case or listen to a witness’ testimony. This is a critical time for you and you want your lawyer to listen to what is happening. It’s not your opportunity to explain why a witness is stating something or offer a reason why the person is not credible.
- Eye Contact, Hand Gestures, or Other Emotions
While it’s ok to make eye contact with a testifying witness, it’s important that neither you nor a member of your family or friends make any outbursts, hand motions, or anything distracting while court is in session, even prior to a judge taking the bench. These emotions will never help your case and if anything, the prosecution may bring it to the court’s attention and imply witness intimidation, which is actually a separate criminal charge in and of itself.
- Remain Calm
Court is very stressful, but it’s important to remain as calm as possible, and speaking with your attorney about what will happen in court can go a long way in calming nerves or your emotions. You will likely be in court for several hours (or perhaps the whole day) and it’s important that you eat and stay properly hydrated prior to arriving in court that day.
For more great legal tips, I encourage you to check out my free download section of the website.