Preparing for an appearance in Court can be very stressful. Knowing what to expect will help relieve some of your anxiety and help you to relax and ease your mind. First, you must understand that most Court appearances are in a Courtroom where they conduct a general calendar, this means that there will likely be dozens of other similar cases set to be heard on the same day and therefore the Courtroom will likely be filled with other people waiting for their cases to be heard as well.
What time should I be there? Most criminal case courtrooms open their doors at 8:30 am but this does not necessarily mean that your case will be called right at 8:30. In fact, when you have a private attorney the clerks will not even pull the file until the lawyer arrives, at which time both sides (The Prosecutor and Defense Counsel) will confer and agree that the matter is “ready” to be called at which time the file will be put up on the bench for the Judge to call the matter. Therefore, should you arrive early, check in with the bailiff then take a seat and wait for your attorney to arrive.
What should I wear? Treat the Court appearance as you would a job interview. Wear clothes that show respect for the proceedings, business casual or suit and tie are preferred, however, you should not go out and buy new clothes for the appearance. Nice, clean, pressed slacks and a collared shirt is acceptable. Avoid, wearing short pants, flip-flops, T-shirts with offensive logos, etc. Nothing flashy.
What should I bring to the Court? Make sure you have any Court-Ordered proof of attendance documents such as AA meetings, classes or counseling that you were ordered to attend prior to the Court date. Also, bring any character reference letters, social history or background information the attorney may have asked you to prepare.
Who should I bring with me? Do not bring any children or young kids who will be disruptive to the proceedings, unless you are specifically told otherwise. Your spouse may accompany you as well as any character witnesses or support persons your lawyer has approved in advance.
When the case is called you will walk with the attorney towards the Judge’s bench and stand unless you are told to sit. Do not say anything unless you are specifically addressed by the Judge or myself. The lawyer will do the talking so you can relax. Do not make any facial gestures or react in any way to any statements made by the prosecutor. Remain dignified at all times.
You should be aware that most Courts have strict security procedures which include metal detectors at the entrance to the building. As such, you should avoid carrying any pocket knives, nail files, scissors and the like. Parking in most Courts is in a private lot which charges a fee so be sure to bring cash for parking, usually between $10-20 dollars. Some Courts such as Torrance has free parking but allow an extra 5-10 minutes to walk from the lot to the Courthouse, be mindful of any limits on the time allowed to park, some streets only allow 2 hour parking so be sure to plan accordingly. Most Court sessions last all morning, between 8-12 noon.