CRIMINAL GUIDE: GOING TO COURT
We always encourage everyone to obey the law and respect law enforcement officers, but if you are accused of a crime or serious traffic matter, the following suggestions can help in insure that you are treated fairly. Always hire a qualified criminal defense attorney to discuss the specifics of your case.
COMMUNICATION – Talk to your attorney. Do your part to insure clear and proper communication. Provide your attorney a complete and accurate typed or printed statement of your version of the facts. Indicate on your statement
"This statement is confidentially addressed to my attorney and is privileged attorney-client communication". Be as specific as you can. List the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of anyone involved in your case. Be sure to include all relevant dates, times, and places. Explain to your attorney any personal issues involving criminal, medical, psychological, and substance abuse problems. Ask your attorney their evaluation of your case, and what you can do to be treated fairly. Discuss all options from trial to plea agreements.
EVIDENCE – Evidence is any form of proof legally presented at a trial, including in part records, documents, photographs, forensics, drug analysis, and the testimony of witnesses. The rules of evidence control what evidence is material, relevant, and admissible in court. If information is considered in proper evidence, it will not be allowed. Provide your attorney a complete list of all evidence know to you. This should include all tangible or intangible property. Be sure to safely secure any items that you have possession. Ask your attorney if he or she requested all exculpatory evidence from the prosecution. Review all evidentiary matters with your attorney, and be sure you understand its significance
WITNESSES AND OTHER PARTIES – Promptly give in writing to your attorney the names, addresses, and telephones numbers of all potential witnesses, and the names of other persons who may provide helpful information. Provide a summary of your anticipated testimony. Note if you expect the witness to be helpful or harmful to your case. Indicate if they will be cooperative. If possible, obtain a written statement from them. Ask if they will voluntarily testify in court or if they require a subpoena. You should provide all information in time to have the witness properly served. Remember, witnesses are people who provide information (evidence) in court through sworn testimony. They may provide factual, character, alibi or other information. The testimony of witnesses is governed by rules of evidence. Generally, witnesses may testify regarding matters that are deemed material and relevant. A witness is generally not allowed to give opinions, or testify to matters that they did not personally observe. Witnesses must usually appear in court. A written statement is generally
not acceptable. It is also important that you review with your attorney all witnesses that may testify against you. Discuss in detail any relationship you have with them, and what is their anticipated testimony. Discuss whether these witnesses are unreliable, hostile, or biased.
COURT APPEARANCE – Timely appear in court for all scheduled court appearances. Be in court at least
45 minutes before your scheduled court time. Remember that only the court can grant continuances. You can be arrested and your bond forfeited if you do not timely appear in court. Call your attorney's office the day before any hearing to confirm your appearance. Remember, as the defendant, you will be the focus of attention. Convey a positive impression. Jury members, judge, and others can observe you inside and outside the courtroom. You want everyone to be impressed with your honesty, sincerity and general demeanor. Always be serious, polite and cordial. Avoid laughing, casual, belligerent or confrontational behavior. Dress conservatively as if you were going to an important meeting. Do not wear sunglasses, eat or chew gum, or engage in provocative behavior.
COURT REPORTER – A court reporter transcribes and maintains a record of a court hearing. Discuss with your attorney if you should hire a court reporter for any hearings. Generally, a court reporter will not appear unless paid in advance. You should provide any required funds to your attorney in sufficient time before your hearing date.
YOUR CONDUCT – While your case is pending, it is extremely important that you be a good citizen. Carefully obey all laws. Do not use alcohol or drugs. Stay out of trouble. Avoid people and places that may get you into trouble. Notify your attorney immediately if you are arrested for anything.
INFORMATION – Fundamental to a good relationship with your attorney is that you stay in contact with them. Immediately notify your attorney regarding any change in your address, telephone number, employment, or other information regarding your case. Stay in contact with them. Call the day before your trial date. Always appear in court unless you are told otherwise.
DO NOT TALK TO ANYONE – Do not talk to anyone without your attorney's permission. Do not make any verbal or written statements to anyone, including the police, regarding any aspect of your case. Anything you say may be used against you in court. Anything you say can have a significant impact on your case. One indiscreet word can result in your conviction. One misplaced confidence can result in your incarceration. Do not talk to reporters of news agencies. Any press releases should be done only after approval of your lawyer.
SEARCHES AND POLICE CONTACT – Always be polite and cordial to the police or other authorities, but do not voluntarily consent to a search of your person, home, vehicle or other property. If served with a search warrant, you are required to allow the police to fulfill their duty. However, do not say anything. Be polite and request to talk to your attorney. Do not comment about ownership, use or possession of property.
PRIVATE DETECTIVE – Discuss with your attorney if you should hire a private detective. This is usually advisable if you are charged with a serious felony. Generally, you are required to pay or provide funds for this purpose.
YOUR ATTORNEY – Obtain a written contract with your attorney and pay all agreed fees. You do not want your attorney to worry about being paid. Ask your attorney to clearly explain the nature of the charges against you, the minimum and maximum punishment, what type of evidence is against you, how he views your case and the chances of being successful. If you feel you need clarification, ask the attorney to put their answer in writing.
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