Legal Questions? / Legal Answers!
Your First Court Appearance / Court Protocol
"Your first time inside a Court House can be a little overwhelming. People and belongings being searched and scanned, prisoners being shuffled in and out of the Court House through a side door, Attorney's looking for their clients, and defendants and witnesses looking for the right courtroom. All along hoping they are not late because of parking the car or not knowing which courtroom to go to. All that, and you haven't even stepped into a courtroom yet. Welcome to Court!"
There are Rules and Protocol to follow once you have entered any Court House in America.
Knowing how things work takes the mystery and perhaps the fear, out of the process. Below is a list of things to know.
- Be Quiet!
- No Weapons Of Any Kind Are Allowed In The Court House.
- No Hats Worn Inside The Courtroom.
- No Offensive T- Shirts are Allowed In The Court House
- All Cell Phones Should Be Turned Off Before Entering The Courtroom.
- Only Service Animals Are Allowed In The Court House.
- No Food or Drinks Are Allowed In The Courtroom.
- No Cameras Are Allowed In The Court House.
- Stand When The Judge Enters and Leaves The Courtroom.
- Stand When You Are Addressing The Judge
- The Court Should Be Addressed As "Your Honor" or "The Court", Not "Judge".
- Speak Clearly And Distinctly When Addressing The Court.
- Keep Your Hands Out Of Your Pockets.
- Don't Interrupt The Judge Or The Other Party / Lawyer. Wait Until It Is Your Turn To Speak.
- Refrain From Making Gestures, Facial Expressions, or Audible Comments of Approval or Disapproval When Listening To Court Testimony.
- All Papers Intended For The Court Should Be Handed To The Clerk or Bailiff. Who In Turn, Will Pass Them On To The Judge
- Be Quiet! - Just A Second Reminder.
If any of the above rules ( and probably a few more I don't even know about) are broken, you can expect the Bailiff to head in your direction. You will be asked to correct the problem, or be asked to leave the courtroom. If asking doesn't work, you'll be removed and arrested.
Remember, this is the Judge's courtroom. The Judge will expect and deserves to be, treated with respect. The way you present yourself is important.The way you sit, if you pay attention when the Judge is speaking, the clothing you chose to wear ...all count. You do not want to upset the Judge or show any form of disrespect to the Court. During your arraignment or plea, the Judge may ask you questions. If you don't understand the question, say so. If you don't know an answer, say so. Take time when answering questions to make sure you answer thoroughly.
I always suggest to those I am helping, to "dress up" a bit. I don't mean you need to wear a suit. But a buttoned up shirt, skirt or blouse,would be good. Clean jeans and a dress shirt are also acceptable.
You may not think this does a thing but I can assure you it does. Respect for the Court goes along way.
When you are summonsed to Court you will get information on the ticket, that tells you the time , where the courthouse is located, and the date to be there.
I suggest you be early. When you arrive, you may have to pass through the Court Metal Detector before you get to your courtroom. This could slow you down a bit. ( leave all those extra keys and jewelry at home or in the car) I had to remove my belt quiet a few times.
Everything in your pockets, wallets, keys, jewelry, change, pens, needs to be placed into the plastic bin you will be given. The bin is then passed through a scanner and you walk through a Metal Detector. One beep means you need to check your pockets again, or perhaps your belt. Two beeps could mean a pat down check.
After you pass through the metal detector, and have gathered up all the items you had to put in the bin for them to scan, you will need to find the number of the courtroom that you are suppose to be in. Usually you will find a Court Employee stationed in the hallway, across from the courtrooms. Your name is all they usually need and they can direct you to which number courtroom you should be in. If there is no one available in the hallway, you may find the days cases listed on the wall. This should also tell you what courtroom to be in for your case.
If your a witness for the District Attorney, you should go directly to their office or seek them out in the Court hallway. The District Attorney will want to keep you separated from the person you are a witness against.
My Final Thought...
"Court can be a very long process. Unless
your picking up papers or filing them, you
will not be in and out in a few minutes.
If you chose to use the parking meters in
front, remember to bring a lot of quarters
and a friend to go back and fourth with them.
You do not want to be out of the Court House
if your name is called. You may want to opt
for the parking garage instead of the meters.