What do I need to know about appearing in court?

Most people don’t put going to court on their list of favorite things to do. However, these practical tips might help make your court appearance go a little more smoothly. Some of this advice may seem obvious, but it’s based on things I’ve seen happen to folks at the courthouse.

5 Practical Tips for Appearing in Court

  1. Consult with an attorney before you go to court. An attorney can give you advice on such important matters as the statute of limitations and your Constitutional rights. Court personnel are prohibited from providing legal advice. If you don’t have a lawyer, the Alabama State Bar Referral Service 800-392-5660 can help you find one. In certain criminal cases, the judge may appoint a lawyer to assist you.

If you already have a lawyer, they will tell you what to do for your court appearance.

  1. Wear pants (or a skirt). Although there are a few people who show up to court without any pants on, what I really mean is don’t wear shorts. You don’t have to put on a prom dress, just be neat and clean. Hats and sunglasses must be removed in the courtroom. Obviously you need to be able to get through security, so leave any weapons at home.

courtroom attire 1

Incidentally, I’m not sure who decided it was hilarious to wear a t-shirt with a marijuana leaf on it to answer their charge of drug possession, but I promise you the idea is neither new, nor good, and it stopped being funny years ago. 

In return, I won’t wear the disco tuxedo from My Cousin Vinny.

courtroom attire 4

  1. Get your game face on at least a block from the courthouse. There is nothing worse than getting in front of a judge only to have him scold you for taking a snapchat video of yourself dancing on the courthouse steps. Or to have the state’s attorney withdraw her offer to dismiss your case because she saw you smoking marijuana in the parking deck. Approach the courthouse as you would a funeral.
  1. Choose who accompanies you very carefully. Many judges do not allow children in the courtroom so it’s generally better to leave them at home. Do not come to court with someone who is inebriated in any way. It is incredibly embarrassing to hear a judge order your drunk uncle be removed from the courthouse.

Avoid bringing people in poor health or with heart conditions with you to court. It is a stressful place and people do occasionally require medical assistance.

  1. Speak as little as possible. This is easier than you might think, since cellphones are not allowed in the courtroom. If your cellphone goes off, most judges will confiscate it. Some judges will confiscate a phone if they so much as see it. 

If you’re with a lawyer, let your lawyer do most of the talking. If you’re representing yourself, keep your answers short and to the point.


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