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What You Must Know as a Defendant
Charged with a Crime

by Ira Still, Esquire
South Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

Pre-Trial Court Appearances


Article Summary:

Now your case is proceeding in the criminal court.  You must make several mandatory court appearances as the months go by.  Your trial seems nowhere in sight.   You may feel confused, like an outsider on your own case.  You have so many questions and no place to turn for answers.  That is, not until now.  The author is a seasoned criminal defense lawyer who has written this article from his vast experience to guide you while you are making your pre-trial court appearances.


  • Preparing for Court

It is time to get ready for court.  Plan when you will get up, what you will wear and when you will leave to be there on time.  Don't do anything that might jeopardize your bond or lead to having it revoked.  If you arrive late the Judge could issue a capias.  A capias is a Court order to the Sheriff to go out and arrest you.  This means that your bond could be revoked and you will be back in jail during the entire pre-trial stage of your case.

Liberty is precious.  The Declaration of Independence says, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  Another word for liberty is freedom.  The Court has given you freedom during the pretrial process by permitting you to bond out of jail.  Freedom always comes at a price.  In constitutional theory freedom always co-exists with its required correlative responsibility.   We must live responsibly in order to remain living in freedom.

Here are some tips for your preparation for court.  Dress conservatively in business attire.  Cover up any visible tattoos.

  • Men should wear dress pants with a shirt and tie; preferably a suit or sport coat.
  • Women should wear pants, or knee-length skirts or dresses; appropriate neckline showing no cleavage.

Get a good night's rest so you will be awake and alert when you are in Court.  Children are not allowed inside the courtroom.  Make other arrangements for your children for that day.  Bring your case journal with you so you can jot down notes of important items you will want to remember.

  • At the Courthouse

Be on time!  Gauge your travel to the downtown area of your city.  Give yourself sufficient time to park and to get through the long lines.  You can prepare for the metal detectors by not wearing large jewelry or belt buckles.  Wear airport friendly shoes.  Leave all weapons at home or in the trunk of your car and that includes small pocket knives.  Even metal nail files can cause an extra search and an unexpected delay.

If you had your driver license suspended as part of your case, then don't drive to court.  Take a bus or let someone else drive you.    Often defendants are observed getting into the driver's seat of their car after a "driving while license suspended" hearing.  Don't learn the hard way that the judge might instruct the court deputy to follow you.

Turn off your cell phone before you go inside the courthouse building.  Don't put it on pulse or vibrate and no text messaging.

Take off your hat.  Don't chew gum.  Stand up tall and look the Judge in the eye.  Show the Judge that you are a responsible person worthy of your liberty.  Answer the Judge with "Yes, your Honor," or "No, your Honor."  Address the lawyers and courtroom workers with "Yes, Sir," or "Yes, Ma'am," or "No, Sir," or "No, Ma'am."  Being respectful of the courtroom workers will help your case.  You will stand out favorably in Court during your pre-trial appearances. 

  • Inside the Courtroom

Be there on time to answer when your name is called.  You might have to wait for your lawyer to arrive as he may be detained in another courtroom.  It is normal for lawyers to have 2 or 3 hearings on the same day.  The judge will wait for the lawyer; he won't wait for you.  If you are late you might have your bond revoked and then you will sit in jail until your case is over. 

While you are waiting for your case to be called, listen to the other cases that are called up to the Judge.  Try to discern what is happening in their cases so you can gain greater insight into your own case.  As you hear case after case being dealt with over several of your Court appearances, you will begin to accumulate great wisdom as to what is happening and what is expected. 

Leave your purse, bag or backpack with someone when you are called to the podium.  Stand right next to your lawyer but on the side away from where the prosecutor is standing.  Otherwise, the Court Deputy will step in and make you move to protect the prosecutor from the possibility of an angry defendant.

Figure it this way: out of 100 cases the judge may give 2 people his complete mercy; 2 people his complete wrath; the greatest majority will be churned through the mill and receive normal or average treatment.  The position you want to be in is, "How do I get in that top 2% where the judge will treat my case with his complete mercy and give me the greatest result possible?" 

  • After Court Wrap-up

Once your case has been called and is done for the day, get your paperwork.  This may include a Court Order setting your next Court date.  Wait in the hallway to talk to your lawyer.  Listen to what the lawyer says and follow his advice.  Keep your Court papers in a file with all of your case documents.  Log the next Court date and time on your calendar and post it in a conspicuous place so you don't forget it.  All successful people keep a calendar.  They check it each week to see what is coming up and determine to be prepared for that meeting before it occurs.  They check it every morning to be certain their day is planned out methodically.  They re-check it at night to be certain they accomplished everything for that day.  Jot down some notes in your journal so you can later recall what the lawyer said and things that are important to remember.

If your lawyer asks for certain information (e.g. witness names and phone numbers) or that you obtain specified documents for him, make sure you write this down so you can check them off as you deliver these items to the lawyer.  What you are becoming is a sharp young man or young woman.  Do you think the Judge will see the changes you are making as your cases progresses through the pre-trial stage?  Do you think that the judge will want to help you to succeed by wrapping up your case quickly and with the best possible outcome? 

Your lawyer knows that your case can be won or lost during the pre-trial stage.  Notice the way he looks, his courtroom demeanor and his intense preparation during this time.  Just as important to winning your case is the way you look, the way you act and the way you prepare for your pre-trial court appearances. 


For more helpful information on success strategies for a person charged with a crime, contact

Ira Still, Esquire
Web:           http://www.istilldefendliberty.com/
Info Blog:     http://istilldefendliberty.blogspot.com/

Ira Still has been a criminal defense trial lawyer in Florida for over 30 years.  He successfully represents his clients on all crimes and in all courts.  Ira has had many, many jury trials and is well known in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale as a very successful trial and appellate lawyer. He has argued death penalty collateral appeals in the Florida Supreme Court and in various District Courts of Appeal.  He has filed briefs in the United States Supreme Court.  Ira has tried high profile cases such as police shooting the wrong person; persons charged with shooting police; capital murder and capital sexual battery; violent crimes; drug trafficking; and virtually every other criminal charge.  Ira is also an author, speaker, teacher, mentor and coach.

© 2009.  The Law Offices of Ira Still