Know Your Case: Have a Plan
Before you step foot in the Douglas, Arapahoe, or Larimer County courtroom, you need to know the plan. Sit down with your criminal defense attorney before trial and go through the process. Are you pleading “guilty” or “not guilty?” Are you going to take the stand? Know what you are doing before you show up in court.
Know Your Place: Don't Be Mentally Unprepared
I always coach my clients before we enter the courtroom. This is because it is easy to enter the court prepared to defend your honor and reputation. When your case is at trial, this is the worst time for you to defend yourself. Whether you chose a judge or jury trial, it is important to understand how people think; no one likes it when a person tries to defend themselves. They appear desperate. This is especially true for juries, whose decision regarding your freedom depends largely on your impression. Here are a few tips on how to act in the court:
[pullquote align=”center” textalign=”center” width=”40%”]Before Court:[/pullquote]
- Be on time: Be at the courtroom early – you don't want to rush in out of breath.
- Plan to be there all day: Don't have things scheduled in the afternoon. You need to focus.
- Don't bring your children: Again, it is important to be focused and calm.
- Sit quietly: Wait patiently for your case to be called. Don't chew gum, read a newspaper, doze off, listen to music, play with your cell phone, or have a snack. People are watching you.
- Stand when the judge enters: Listen to the court staff, who will tell you when you should stand.
[pullquote align=”center” textalign=”center” width=”40%”]When Your Case is Called:[/pullquote]
- Listen to your attorney: You hired your lawyer to be your advocate. Listen to what they say. If you hear something during the trial you think is important, share it quietly with your criminal defense attorney. They will defend you – let them do their job.
- When you speak: If you are testifying, speak slowly and calmly – don't get emotional. Be understandable (use common phrases) and concise (don't ramble or tell long stories). Stick to the facts – don't talk about issues which aren't vital to your case. When speaking with the judge, refer to him or her as “your honor.”
- Stay calm: Don't interrupt or grow agitated during the trial. This will be difficult, because you will be hearing lies about your side of the story. Your lawyer is there to argue for you – your job is to listen and stay calm. Don't appear desperate.
- Be precise and thoughtful: Don't try to think of every outcome of what you say. Answer truthfully and precisely. If you reference specific dates, be exact. Take as much time as you need when answering questions, but don't stall – if a direct question is asked and you have to think about your answer, the jury might think you are lying. It is okay for the DA to score some points during your trial. Don't be scared of this.
- Realize the gravity of your situation: Don't laugh or gossip about your case in the restrooms or hallway. The District Attorney, jury members, or other witnesses could hear you.
[pullquote align=”center” textalign=”center” width=”40%”]After Your Case is Decided:[/pullquote]
- Don't express your emotions: Whatever the outcome of your case, don't show your happiness or frustration.
- Know the next step: Before you leave the courtroom, you need to know the next step you are required to take. If you don't know, talk to your criminal defense attorney.
- Keep your plans to yourself: If you plan to appeal the decision, don't announce this to the court. The trial court has nothing to do with appeals.
Final Piece of Advice
The best thing you can do as a criminal defendant in the courtroom is to be likeable. Your future is going to be decided by one person (the judge) or a group of people (the jury). Whether you like it or not, they are people who are swayed by emotions, first impressions, and gut reactions. If you are prideful and smug during your trial, the judge or jury will not like you. If you are whiny and needy, they will not like you. It is difficult to side with someone you don't like. Your job in the courtroom is to be quiet, respectable, polite, and likeable. It is your criminal defense attorney's job to fight for your reputation and freedom.Request a Free Consultation