A Former Prosecutor Defending Clients in Wyoming and South Dakota
If you were arrested in Wyoming, you should have been given a date for your first court appearance. If this is your first court appearance and you’re like most people, you’re probably nervous and don’t know what to expect.
To reduce your stress level, here are five things you should know before your first court appearance.
Start by getting yourself organized. Make sure you have given any necessary documentation to your lawyer. If not, make sure you bring it with you. Make sure your lawyer has everything they need.
Visit the courthouse once before your first court appearance so you know ahead of time where you’ll be going and where to park. Familiarize yourself with the route you’ll take to get there, and try to make the trip around the same time of day you’ll need to be there on the date of your first court appearance so you know what traffic will be like. Try to get into the courthouse and walk to the courtroom where your case will be heard. Look at what people are wearing, and watch how they act. This will prepare you for what to expect on your court date.
On the day of your first court appearance, give yourself extra time so you won’t be overly worried if you do run into traffic, or if you make a wrong turn.
Your appearance in court does matter. If you’ve had a chance to visit the courthouse before your court date you’ll have seen how people dress. Dress as if you were going to a job interview. Try to look professional yet conservative, but don’t overdo it so as to make yourself uncomfortable. Wear clothes that fit well so that you won’t be uncomfortable and fidget in court.
Don’t schedule anything just before court, and give yourself extra time after your court appearance. Court can involve a lot of waiting and things may not start when they are supposed to, so there’s a chance your court appearance will take longer than you expect it to. If you are scheduled to work on the same day as your court appearance, try to take time off of work, or tell your employer that you have a commitment and might be late. This will allow you to fully focus on your court appearance without outside distractions.
During your initial meeting with your Wyoming criminal defense lawyer you probably went over what to expect at your first court appearance. When you arrive at court, look around for your lawyer. You’ll also need to check in with court personnel.
The courthouse staff can answer general questions about how the process works and direct you where you need to go. They cannot give you legal advice, give you an opinion about what might happen next in your case, or let you talk to a judge outside of the court hearing.
The bailiff will announce when the judge is entering the courtroom. Stand until the judge tells everyone in the courtroom to be seated.
If you are speaking in court when it is not your turn to talk the judge, keep your voice down. You do not want to attract unwanted attention while the judge is dealing with another case.
Remain calm. It’s normal to feel nervous, but try to remain calm and level-headed.
When your case is called, a court officer will direct you and your attorney to a microphone or a place where you will address the judge. Let your lawyer do most of the talking.
Your first court appearance is the time when the court tells you what charges you are facing and advises you of your constitutional rights, and the time when you tell the court how you wish to plead. If you have hired an attorney you will usually plead Not Guilty, as this will give your attorney a chance to continue to investigate the case, work out a potential plea arrangement, or set the case for trial.
The judge might ask if you want to enter a plea, if you understand your rights, if you are voluntarily waiving your rights, or ask if you wish to make a statement. If you do speak, speak clearly. Don’t mumble, don’t cover your mouth, and speak into the microphone.
When the judge asks you direct questions answer calmly and confidently. Speak only when you are spoken to. Your responses should generally be “Yes, your honor,” “No, your honor,” or “Not guilty, your honor.”
Your attorney will be standing next to you. The charges are usually read aloud and you will be asked to enter a plea. You can plead:
Don’t get into an argument with the judge or anyone else in the courtroom.
The time you spend speaking with the judge during your first court appearance will likely be short (less than 10 minutes).
Depending on the severity of the charge, this might also be the time when the judge will make a decision on bail, including whether or not to release you, establish conditions for your release, and set future dates for your case, such as dates to return to court to discuss the status of the case, or set the case for trial.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only. This information is not offered as legal advice. A person accused of a crime should always consult with an attorney before making decisions that have legal consequences.