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How Do I Prepare For a Court Date?

Kush Arora: The most important thing to do on your first court date is to make sure that you are dressed appropriately for court. It’s always important to look neat. For men I usually advise that slacks and a button-down shirt with nice dress shoes are appropriate. For women, I advise business casual or the equivalent based on the criteria for a male. It is important to recognize that your clothing should not be loud and should not draw too much attention to you. It should make you appear to be somebody that is taking this hearing, this proceeding, or whatever the basis is for you being in court seriously and that you respect the process of the court system.

The other thing you should remember is to communicate with your attorney in advance of court. Your attorney will have special instructions for you about how long you need to be there, what time you need to arrive, and what, if anything, you need to bring along with you. These are all important things to remember for the court date because oftentimes judges will not grant postponements simply because somebody has not prepared or somebody as not had an opportunity to communicate with their client in advance of court. Staying in touch with your attorney to make sure that you are already in those capacities is also extremely important.

In terms of what else you need to do to prepare to be in court, it is important to follow your attorney’s advice. If your attorney has advised you that it’s an appropriate decision for you to testify on your court date and you’ve come to that agreement together. You want to be sure that you’ve worked with your attorney to outline how you’re going to approach testifying in court. Making sure that you’re not surprised by the procedure of a trial and what is going to happen is also extremely important. Everything that you need to know before a court date regarding how you should prepare comes down to making sure that you stay in close communication with your attorney in advance of the court date.

What should I expect when I get to court?

Kush Arora: What you can expect when you get to court depends on the reason why you are there. If you’re there for a misdemeanor case, you may have a call time of 8:30 in the morning and you can expect that you’re going to wait a long time that day. Oftentimes there are up to a 100 cases on a docket that are scheduled for the exact same time and in the same courtroom. The cases are resolved in varying ways and are called in different ways depending on which courthouse or county you are in. You could have a call time of 8:30 but you might not have a judge sit until well after 9 o’clock and your case might not be called until 1 or 2 in the afternoon.

You can expect that there is often times going to be a delay in how the case is called. Usually that doesn’t apply as much to felony cases, which will take place in the circuit court in Maryland. Things are done on a far more scheduled basis and usually other matters are not set for the same time as yours. Though there may be a brief delay in the type of proceeding that you’re responding to in circuit court for a felony case, usually it’s not as lengthy as what might happen in the district court at the misdemeanor level.

The other things that you can expect, particularly in misdemeanor cases, is that often times a lot of information is not available on the case until that day. This is often the first time that defense attorneys have an opportunity to meet with police officers or other state witnesses on a case and sometimes it is even the first opportunity that they have to actually discuss your case with the prosecutor. You can expect there to be conference rooms and other areas where you can meet with your attorney at the courthouse. Judges tend to be very patient in making sure that attorneys and defendants have an opportunity to discuss the case in its entirety. They all understand the nature of district court and the fact that a great deal of information is only dispersed on that day with many witnesses and the first opportunity to meet.

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