When you have a scheduled court hearing in a criminal case, you need to take it very seriously. Unlike a civil case where you may only appear in court for a settlement conference and then trial, in a criminal case the defendant is required to appear at each of the sometimes numerous steps along the way. These can include the arraignment, the pretrial, the preliminary examination, the arraignment on the information, the final pretrial and all motions. Besides checking with your lawyer to find out the time, date and location of the hearing, you should consider your personal appearance. While it may not seem fair, the judge, jury and prosecutor will assess you based upon how you look. The best plan is to wear something clean and professional. Treat this court appearance the way you would treat a job interview. A good visual impression will likely mean that you are going to get the best deal, sentence or verdict that you possibly can. How can you do this?
Start with any body piercings. While you may love that nose ring, the judge probably will not. Take out any facial hardware other than earrings. Never wear shorts, denim or t-shirts, particularly ones with political or humorous statements. If you are a man and have a suit, that is almost always the best choice. If you do not own a suit, dress pants and a button down shirt will work just fine. Women should wear a conservative dress or suit. If you have a mohawk, this is the time to wear it down or slicked back. If you have a bunch of tattoos on your arms or legs, do your best to cover them up. You do not want the judge or jury to rate you based on body art.
Check the court website prior to your hearing to see if they allow cell phones in the courthouse. Some courts allow only phones without cameras, others outlaw cell phones entirely. Make sure you know the rule, especially if you are getting dropped off. I have had clients who have been forced to hide their cell phones outside in the bushes because they did not have a car at the court and the court did not have storage lockers. Fewer courts have such lockers, so do not count on this accomodation. The rules are really simple: plan ahead, find out when and where you are to appear and make sure you put your best foot forward so your experience with the criminal justice system is as painless as possible.