DUI Court: How to Act, What to Wear, Arrive Early
How to dress and behave to get the best treatment
Most people get worried about the basics in DUI court appearances such as what to wear and how to behave. It helps early on to realize that nobody is happy to be in DUI court. You will be there with anywhere from a handful to upwards of 50 people packed into a single courtroom, all charged with various criminal charges including DUI.
Dress appropriately.You don’t necessarily have to wear a suit, but you would be a fool to wear jeans and a t-shirt. You want to look like you are taking your case seriously. Do not wear any shirt with a slogan on it. Don’t wear open toed shoes. Remove your hat.
Make sure your cell phone is off: Few things get judges madder faster than when a cell phone goes off in court.
Leave your sharp things at home or in your car: You will probably have to through a metal detector on your way into DUI court. You will probably not be allowed to bring knives, scissors, fingernail clippers or anything that looks like it could be used as a weapon. As a rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t try to board an airplane with it, don’t try to bring it to court.
Don’t bring food or gum into the courtroom: It is about respect. Even if there is no sign that says you can’t chew gum, you don’t want to make the judge mad, do you?
Shower or bathe:Criminal courtrooms smell like B.O. as a general rule. Don’t be part of the problem and you will immediately gain a measure of respect from the judges and prosecutors.
Arrive on time: It should go without saying, but unfortunately, for some it does not. You should plan to arrive at least 15 minutes earlier than your scheduled court date. That way, if something happens you have build yourself a cushion. You are trying to defend yourself against a serious criminal charge, and you don’t want to have to explain or justify tardiness on top of your DUI. If you have never been to the court before, or if traffic in your area is unpredictable, make sure you account for the unknown. Find out where to park ahead of time, Judge how long it will take you to get through security. Plot out the bus routes. Make sure you have a reliable friend or relative taking you. Make sure you have gas in the car. In short, plan ahead and make sure you aren’t the one who walks into court late.
If possible, leave babies and children at home: Some judges will not permit babies or young children in their courtrooms. Others will, but will ask you to remove them if they are being rowdy or crying. If you are the sole adult who has brought kids to court, this could put you in an extremely awkward situation because you may be asked to step out of the courtroom and remove the children. You can’t just leave small kids to wander the halls of a criminal court (after all, criminals go there, right?). So when possible, leave children at home. If it is not possible, you should bring the kids rather than just skipping the court date.
If your license is suspended, do not drive to court: Sometimes, but the time a DUI defendant gets to his or her court date, the drivers license or driving privilege has already been suspended or restricted. If this is you and you drive to court, you should be aware that 1) depending on your state, you are probably committing a new crime; and 2) police officers know that irresponsible people drive to court on suspended licenses and specifically watch court parking lots for suspended drivers; and 3) if you get caught, in addition to being charged with the crime of driving on a suspended license, your current DUI case might also be hurt.
Private lawyers usually go first: If you have a private lawyer, then chances are that you can plan to be out of DUI court relatively quickly. This is because, in most courts, prosecutors and judges talk to private lawyers first as a professional courtesy. If you have a public defender or if you are representing yourself, see the next paragraph…
Prepare to be patient: If you have a public defender, chances are that half of the other people you in court do to. The public defender has to get through every person. They may take you in alphabetical order, or there may be a check in area or a sign in sheet from which they will call your name. If you are not represented, you may have a chance to talk with the prosecutor directly (potentially dangerous!), but you will typically have to wait until all of the attorneys, including the public defenders are done talking with the prosecutor.
How do I address the Judge: Always with respect! Some proper terms for speaking with judges are “sir, ma’am, your honor, judge.” If you stick with those you will be okay. However, any DUI lawyer who spends more than a couple of hours in court can tell you that it is common to hear some nervous person address a forceful female judge as “sir.” If you think this might accidently happen to you, stick with “judge” or “your honor.”