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Preparing for Your First Court Date

Attending your first court appearance can be a very stressful event. Knowing what to expect can help to alleviate some of the anxiety.

First and foremost, it is important to communicate with your attorney so you know what to expect, specific to your circumstances. But, generally, there are a few things that will apply to everyone, regardless of their circumstances.

It’s important to dress for the occasion. Court has specific rules regarding what you can and cannot wear- such as crop tops – however, we suggest clients go further and dress as if they are going to a job interview. Wearing a suit is a great, but, if that’s not an option, slacks and button up shirts are a great second option. If that is not an option either, we suggest wearing your cleanest pair of jeans and a plain shirt.

It’s also important to show up to court on time. Some courts are notorious for starting late – that doesn’t mean you can show up late. Your attorney may give you permission to show up at a later time but, short of that, it’s important to be on time. You don’t want your attorney having to explain to the court why you are late. At worst, it could affect your bail status.

Once you get to court, you should check in with your attorney to let him or her know that you are there and ready to discuss any last minute questions and concerns. Ideally, prior to court, you will know what the plan is – and whether it will be a continuance, hearing, or plea. Keep in mind, for first court appearances, attorneys rarely have police reports and will likely only be prepared to ask the court for a continuance (or another court date). It is possible that your attorney will be addressing your custody status at the first court date. If that’s the case, your attorney will speak to you about bail beforehand.

When the judge takes the bench, court will begin. When court begins, it’s important to take your seat, remove your hat, and silence your cell phone. You may see others in the courtroom using their phones; however, phone use, including recording court proceedings, is not allowed in the courtroom. Speaking with inmates in custody is also prohibited.

When the judge, bailiff, or your attorney calls your name, you will walk to the front of the

courtroom. It is important that you remember to only speak when your lawyer gives you permission to speak. Otherwise, do not talk.

Keep in mind, proceedings are recorded, and you may not realize the things you say could be used against you in your criminal case.

How arraignments are conducted will vary from county to county. Some courts will read the charges against you and others will ask your attorney if he or she waives the reading of the charges. In some counties, the court will ask you to enter your “guilty” or “not guilty” plea and other counties will not do that at the arraignment. The district attorney may request other orders at the first court date, such as a criminal protective order. Or, the court may require that you check in with pretrial services. It’s important to discuss any and all court orders with your attorney before leaving court. There will be exceptions, however, generally speaking, your lawyer will get the date for the next court date.

And, that will conclude your first court date. These are general considerations for your first court date; however, it is important to discuss your specific circumstances with a lawyer, especially where bail is at issue. Please contact the attorneys at Chastaine Jones at (916) 932-7150 or online for your free consultation

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