Huppert Law’s Tips for Going to Court
1) Go to Court: This may seem fairly obvious but it is worth saying. The consequences for not going to court are almost always worse than the consequences of going to court. In a criminal case, if you fail to appear the court can (and likely will) issue a warrant for your arrest. It exposes you to additional charges, such as Failure to Appear, and having an active warrant for your arrest opens you up to even more problems. In a civil case, if you do not come to court, the court will likely rule against you and give the other side what they are asking for. The number one reason people have told me that they did not want to come to their court date is because they were afraid of what is going to happen. While that is only natural, try not to let fear get you in worse trouble. While a lawyer can never tell you what is going to happen at court with 100% certainty, a good lawyer can at the very least tell you the process you will go through and give you some prediction of the outcome of your case. It is very important to consult with a lawyer as early as possible in your case to give you an idea of what you need to do and how to handle your case.
2) Be early: A professor of mine once told me; if you’re early you’re on time, if you’re on time you’re late, and if you’re late you’re fired. The same holds true for court. You need to be at the courthouse at least 15 minutes early on any given day to make sure you can find your way to the courtroom and meet up with your lawyer before your hearing. Consult your attorney to see if there is any reason to arrive extra early. For example, Mondays in Lane County the line to get into the courthouse is often out the door. Remember that most courthouses in Oregon require you to go through security before entering. This is similar to airport security, with x-ray scanners for your bags and metal detectors for you to walk through. You may even have to take off your shoes and belt. Also, like airport security, you cannot bring weapons or explosives into a court house. This includes small pocket knives, mace, and things that look like weapons. All this translates into long lines and wait times to get into the building and you should take that into account when deciding when to arrive. Remember, you need to be in the court room before court starts, if not the judge can issue a warrant for your arrest or grant the other side’s motion for default judgment.
3) Dress to impress: Think of going to court like going to a job interview, first impressions are important. I advise all of my clients to wear at least a button up shirt and slacks. A tie and jacket can also be helpful but only if you are comfortable in them. Do not over dress. If you are uncomfortable that could be mistaken for something else, like guilt. If you have an attorney, talk to them before picking out your clothing, they might have other suggestions. There are a few things to avoid no matter what, and yes I have seen all of these outfits worn to court. DO NOT, under any circumstances, wear pajamas to court. It tells the judge, I didn’t take this seriously enough to wake up in time. Do not wear clothing with beer or other alcohol logos on it, especially if you’re there because of an alcohol related incident like DUII. Do not wear clothing with marijuana or other drug logos on it, again especially if you’re in court because of drugs. Avoid clothing with cute or funny slogans on it. You may think it’s witty, the judge probably won’t. Do not wear any clothing that is revealing, flirtatious, too tight, or has something written on the butt. A note on footwear, avoid flip flops. They are noisy, distracting, and far too casual. Above all else you want to appear respectful to the Court and the process.
4) Bring something to read: As I mentioned, you may sit for a while. I will give you an example; in Lane County Circuit Court criminal cases you will attend something called 35 day call. This court appearance can often last two or three hours and your part of it might last less than ten minutes. A good book will be your best friend while you’re sitting on the court benches waiting for your turn. A quick word on tablets; best to avoid them. Some judges in some courts will allow them in their court rooms, but by and large they are against the rules, same with Smartphones (even on silent). So a physical book, newspaper, or something similar is what you should bring. Better safe than bored.
Hopefully, these rules give you some guidance in preparing for your court appearance. They apply to everyone going to court; parties, witnesses, moral support, or if you are just observing. Remember, when in doubt, call an attorney and find out.