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How to Prepare for Your First Court Appearance

If you’ve never had to appear in court before, being forced to appear before a judge can be one of the most intimidating you’ve ever had to experience. Many people are extremely nervous in the days leading up to this initial appointment, and our clients often ask us if there’s anything they can do to start their case off on the right foot. The good news: there is! And it doesn’t even have to be extremely difficult. By following these simple steps, you can give your case the best possible chance of success right from the first time you set foot before a judge.

Dress the Part

How you dress will influence how the court will perceive you, and this will have an influence on your case. Remember when Lindsey Lohan wore sweatpants to court? Don’t follow her lead—it does way more damage than you might think. Having a professional and respectful wardrobe choice shows you are taking your situation seriously and the court will return this respect with respect of its own.

For ladies, business suits and professional dresses are encouraged. Skirts should be knee-length at the shortest. Keep heels modest, and try to avoid any brightly-colored blouses. Keep earrings, necklaces, and hairstyles reserved and conservative. Leave the three-inch hoop earrings at home—they’ll only be distracting and don’t present the image you’re going for.

For gentlemen, dress suits are encouraged, but a shirt-and-tie with slacks should be the absolute bare minimum. Make sure your shirt and pants are both ironed and that your tie is a neutral, mild color. Wear close-toed shoes with appropriate socks, and keep your hair neat and groomed. Aside from perhaps a wristwatch, keep all jewelry at home.

For both men and women, make sure all visible tattoos are covered to the best of your ability.

Arrive on Time

There’s a good rule to follow when it comes to arriving to court: arriving on time is arriving late. Plan to arrive quite a bit early to make sure nothing surprising can get in your way. Even if you have your route timed perfectly, you never know when a car accident may slow down the roads, your bus may be running behind schedule, or any other factor can get in the way. Finally, once you’re at the courthouse, it’s going to take some time to get through the security line, check in, and get where you need to go. The courts don’t take too kindly to having to wait for you if you’re running behind.

Conduct Yourself Appropriately

How you act will have just as big of an influence over your case as how you dress, if not bigger. First and arguably most important, be polite to everyone who works at the court you encounter. Whether it’s the security guard who conducts the check on you, the clerk who checks you in, or the bailiff who ushers you to your spot, a judge has great care and respect for those who make their courtroom operate and don’t take kindly to people who make their days more difficult. They can and will hear about it if you do.

Second, when court is in session, don’t chew gum, turn your phone off completely, and pay attention quietly and respectfully to whoever’s speaking. If you wore a hat to the courtroom, you’ll be forced to take it off when you enter, as you should with your coat as well to show that you’re willing to stay for as long as you’ll need to.

Need help preparing to handle your criminal case? Make sure you have an experienced advocate on your side! Call The Clarke Law Firm today at (615) 645-1501 and request a case evaluation now!
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