Whether you have hired a private defense attorney or are using the free attorney provided by the public defender, it is very important to check your court dates both online and with your attorney. Oftentimes your criminal defense attorney can waive your appearance in court. However, you will need to meet with your lawyer before you are scheduled to appear in court and sign the document allowing for this to happen. If you miss your court date, even if by accident, the judge can revoke your bond and issue a capias for your arrest. If you are arrested, it is likely that the judge will order you held without bail. Additionally, if the prosecutor can prove that you missed court intentionally, you can be charged with an additional third degree felony called “Failure to Appear.”
Tip: Go to the clerk of the court’s website in the county that you were arrested in. When you type in your name, you will be able to double-check your court date. This is a good thing to do in order to make sure that you have the date and time right and that nothing has changed.
It’s your first time in court. As is the case with many of my clients, you may be wondering: What should I expect the first time I go to court for a criminal case?
Here are 5 things to remember:
- Check the courtroom and courthouse address the day prior to your scheduled date, so you will know where you need to go and will arrive on time.
- Call your lawyer and speak to him or her about what will be happening during your court session to make sure that you are both on the same page.
- Dress appropriately. Many judges will not permit you in the courtroom with shorts or flip-flops on. If you own a suit, this is the time to wear it. This is not the time to sport your favorite ironic t-shirt or Tampa Bay Bucs jersey.
4. Plan on being in court for a long time. It is not unusual for a lawyer and his or her client to be in court for several hours before the judge addresses their case. Remember to take the day off from work in case you get stuck in court for a while.
5. Keep your ears open and your mouth shut. Remember to speak only through your lawyer and listen to what he or she says. Otherwise, you run the risk of volunteering information that could be used against you in the future and may affect your chances of winning your case. Court proceedings are recorded by a court reporter. If the prosecutor hears you talking about some aspect of your case, your words could be used against you if you take your case to trial. Oftentimes defendants become frustrated about what the judge is saying about their case and blurt out a comment in their defense. Please remember that you have the right to remain silent.