Prepping for Trial: Tips for Defendants

September 4, 2023 Criminal Defense

If you are facing criminal charges in Florida and have not accepted a plea bargain offer, it means that you might be going to trial. During a criminal trial, the State Attorney’s prosecution team and defense team will both provide their own arguments alongside evidence to argue the defendant’s guilt or innocence, respectively. If you are in a position where you may go to trial for an alleged criminal offense, it is important that you are familiar with the proper etiquette to ensure a smooth trial.

This page will provide information on things you can do prior to your court date, tips on the do’s and don’ts of the courtroom, and answer generic questions on how a defense attorney can assist you during this difficult time.

Things to Consider Prior to the Court Date

Once you know your criminal case is heading to trial, there are a few things you can do beforehand to try and ensure things go smoothly. While it may vary from case to case, here are some things to consider taking care of before your court date:

  • Read through all relevant documentation and court papers to ensure you understand the charges against you.
  • Review all case evidence with your defense attorney and ensure they don’t need any additional information from you before the court date.
  • Avoid speaking about your upcoming court trial or the case in general with friends, family, or social media. If the State somehow manages to learn of your statements, they may use them against you. This is especially true if you are using a recorded line, such as those used in jails.
  • Determine with your defense attorney if your trial will include any witness testimonies, expert witness testimonies, or whether you should consider testifying.
  • If you decide to testify, request to practice answering questions with your defense attorney to prepare for the court date.

If you have a criminal charge that you believe will go to trial, hire an experienced Tallahassee defense attorney to discuss your case details and to begin preparing for court.

Tips on Courtroom Etiquette 

When you are present in the courtroom, it is important to remember to maintain proper etiquette. As a rule of thumb, follow these tips of dos and don’ts for your criminal court case:

  • Read all court orders and notices carefully;
  • Have your attorney advise court of any special accommodations required for your case;
  • When addressed in the courtroom, refer to the judge as “your honor;”
  • Speak in a loud and clear voice and avoid interrupting anyone else when speaking;
  • Maintain patience and composure when waiting to present your side or when the opposing party presents information contrary to your case;
  • Do NOT bring children or significant others to the courthouse unless prompted to by the judge;
  • Do NOT use any cell phones or other electronic devices and ensure they are off;
  • Dress appropriately and show the courtroom respect;
  • Keep your emotions under control; and
  • If necessary, provide your own language interpreter.

When Should I Arrive in Court?

You should avoid being late to court at all costs. We highly advise arriving early (20-30 mins early) at your court hearing. Give yourself extra time for parking, going through security, and finding the correct room. Also consider that some circuits have more than one courthouse, so ensure you have the correct courthouse address. It is not uncommon for multiple cases to be set for the same time. If the judge calls your name and you are not present, it could result in the judge issuing a warrant for your arrest or causing you to reschedule the hearing.

What Should I Wear to Court?

Wearing the right clothes to a courtroom appearance is important. While we gave the tip “dress appropriately,” what exactly does that mean?

Consider dressing for court as you would dress for a new job interview, or for going to church with your family. Avoid tank-tops, shorts, flip flops, jeans, or T-shirts. You may also want to avoid large logos, political statements, or obvious commentary on your clothing. If you have a hat or sunglasses on while outside, ensure that you remove them once inside the courthouse. Ideally, you want to make the impression that you took your court date seriously while showing respect to the judge, opposing counsels, and jury.

What Happens if I Have Special Needs?

It is important for you to inform your attorney or the court of any special accommodation you may need. Reasons for special accommodation include disability or the need for a language interpreter. The court clerk should be aware of any special needs ahead of time to ensure the court is prepared for specific hearing or speech disabilities, handicap accessibility, or barriers in language.

Does the Courtroom Have Security?

Yes, each person who enters the courthouse will be required to pass through a metal detector. While it should be obvious, we will reiterate that no weapons or firearms shall be allowed inside the courtroom. Additionally, the security may ask you to leave electronics with them. Knowing this beforehand can help you to avoid wearing any concerning metals, such as belts or metal shoes.

What Happens During Courtroom Trial?

While many criminal cases are resolved through plea bargains, there is still the possibility that it will continue in the legal proceedings and head to trial. If a criminal case goes to trial, all the relevant evidence will be presented in front of a jury or to the judge. Under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.260, a defendant holds the right to waive a jury trial with the State’s consent.

During a criminal trial, the prosecution team holds the responsibility of attempting to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. On the other hand, the defense team will try to poke holes in the State’s case in attempt to show why they have not met their burden of proof. Both sides will have the opportunity in the courtroom to provide the following criminal procedures:

  • Opening statements
  • Presentation of evidence
  • Witness questioning (if applicable)
  • Closing arguments

After the above steps have been completed, the judge or jury will then decide on a verdict. If the defendant is found guilty, the legal proceeding will move forward to the sentencing portion. This can take place immediately after the guilty verdict or could take several weeks after the trial ends.

The final step in sentencing is the judge determining the exact punishment for the defendant’s crime. The judge can also decide whether the defendant will remain in custody or be released in between the verdict and sentencing announcement.

The benefit of working with a skilled defense attorney is to ensure you have an experienced and knowledgeable professional on your side who can help you throughout each step of the legal proceedings.

Contact a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one are facing criminal prosecution for an alleged offense in Florida, it is imperative that you speak with a defense attorney. Florida has harsh penalties in place for those convicted of criminal offenses. Without excellent legal representation, you could face steep fines and imprisonment if you are found guilty.

The defense attorneys at Pumphrey Law Firm understand the ins and outs of the legal world. Our team of attorneys are prepared to stand by your side and help fight for your freedom. Contact our office at (850) 681-7777 or leave us a message for a free case evaluation.

 Written by Karissa Key

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