Basic Information Everyone Should Know About Appearing in Court
by Glen R. Graham, Tulsa Criminal Defense Attorney, 918-260-8184
Sometimes people make assumptions that other people will know things about court without taking the time to explain it to them. Once, I even received a minor comment on my website that someone claimed that they did not know that they would have to pay a parking meter when they came to the court house for court and that somehow it was my fault because I did not inform them of this basic information. Another time, a young man told me with a straight face that he did not think it was any big deal to be on time to court. In both instances, the people honestly communicated that they thought someone should tell them how to behave for court. At some point, everyone is assumed to have common sense and no attorney can tell you everything and no one should have to tell you everything. Some things are just common sense.
Here is some basic common sense suggestions that everyone should know before appearing in court:
1. Be on time to court. Leave early. There is limited parking space around the court house. Also, there is a lot of road construction going on right now which can cause you to be delayed. If you are reading this blog, then you should be able to use either mapquest or the google maps function to pull up the directions to the court house in Tulsa, Oklahoma, or other court houses. The address to the Tulsa County Court House is 500 S. Denver Ave., Tulsa, Oklahoma. Next door is the court for the municipal court of the city of Tulsa. The address of the Municipal Court - City of Tulsa is 600 Civic Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
2. Bring at least five ($5.00) to ten ($10.00) dollars to either pay for long term parking or bring pocket change, at least 4 - 8 quarters to plug a parking meter for short term parking. There are some "secret" "free" spaces, such as parking spaces several blocks from the court house and/or a few parking meters that are stuck or a few businesses which allow you to park. But, those places are usually a long walk to the court house and/or there is fierce competition for some parking spaces. On a day when there are jury trials, there may be extremely limited parking spaces. You could drive to the court house to see where you might park ahead of time if there is any chance that might have trouble finding parking or locating the court house. The real secret to finding parking is to get there before 8:30 a.m. when there is alot of parking available.
3. Dress appropriately for court. You may not be allowed to enter some court rooms if you are in shorts or certain inappropriate clothes. You will be asked to remove your hats and sunglasses inside the court room. The judge and/or prosecutor and/or other people may question your mental competency if you have a different hair style with unusual colors like blue, purple, poke-a-dot, or other unusual hair styles. A mohawk hair cut may cause people to think you are a rule violator or law breaker or some one who does not follow the rules. If you are viewed as a law breaker then it may cause people to think you are guilty of the offense you are charge with or that you have some kind of serious mental issues. If you wear a shirt that has messages that indicate you use drugs or that you are a law violator, then you make it more difficult to represent you. Everyone is supposed to be presumed innocent but if you appear guilty by the way you look or the way you dress then it is one more hurdle for you and your lawyer to try to over-come.
4. Pay your attorney. If you cannot pay, then explain to your attorney the circumstances and when you can pay. Most attorneys understand that you may need more time to pay and will attempt to pass the case to give you time to pay. This country is suffering an economic recession and everyone understands that you may need more time to pay. You should make a good faith effort to pay your attorney. If your family paid your bondsman, then you should ask them to help you pay your attorney. It is the right thing to do. If you posted a substantial bond and then fail to pay your attorney, then this might cause your attorney to question you.
5. Lose the negative attitude and develop a positive, "I can do it" attitude. If you have a non-violent offense and you are guilty, then you should think about going to treatment and obtaining a letter from some treatment provider. You should start gathering information, letters, recommendations, proof of employment, and things that can help you.
6. It is safe to assume that at some point, the court may require you to submit to a urine test for drugs. Sometimes, the court may suprise you with a request that you submit to a urine test for drugs when you show up late for court or if your appearance or your behavior is such that the court is faced with the possibility of revoking your bond or holding you in contempt of court or when it appears to the court you may be on drugs.
7. Comb your hair. Do not look like a criminal. Do not dress like a criminal. If you are charged with a crime, you should make an effort to look innocent or at least not look like a criminal.
8. If you had insurance on the vehicle, bring proof of it to court. If you or your family member or friend have a prescription for the drug, then bring a copy or proof of it to court, and give a copy to your attorney as soon as possible.
9. If you have medical or mental problems, then bring proof of this to court and give a copy to your attorney as soon as possible.
10. Everyone will be watching you around the court house. Secretaries, clerks, under-cover police officers, other attorneys, prosecutors, and Judges will all be watching you. Be polite. Be careful. People notice things and then may comment about you in chambers.
If you are the main bread winner for the family or if you are supporting minor children, then it would be helpful to have some form of proof of this matter to present to the court. Maybe a letter from someone verifying this information.
These are just some basic ideas and information that everyone should know before they appear in court. I am sure there are more, but some things really are just common sense and some things you should have been taught by your parents or you should have learned as proper socializing behavior. Wear clean clothes, brush your teeth, dress appropriately for court, comb your hair, be polite, have a positive attitude, do not talk about your case in front of other people.