Going to court for the first time can be a daunting process – there’s a lot at stake, so it’s important to make sure you give a good impression. There are certain things you need to do before your hearing to make sure everything goes smoothly – read on to find out more.
Get A Lawyer
One of the most important things to do before a hearing is getting a lawyer. In Canada, if you don’t have a lawyer, you are allowed to speak to duty counsel beforehand – they are part of Legal Aid, and will give you some support if you don’t have a lawyer. However, this is not the ideal solution – getting a lawyer is not only a much more secure form of defence, but it also makes you look professional and serious, rather than unprepared. This is key – your first impression matters, so getting a lawyer is a good step in ensuring you come across well. Make sure you get a lawyer in advance – searching for the right lawyer for you (we recommend these criminal lawyers, Toronto) is essential. After all, the courtroom is a confusing place, as well as incredibly stressful, so having someone who not only knows the rules and tricks, but can keep you calm, is greatly needed to ensure you’re defended the best you can be.
Getting To Court
It’s best to arrive early to court, to avoid being late as well as to locate your courtroom and duty counsel if you need it. There will be a scanner, so don’t bring any weapons or sharp objects – it may sound like common-sense, but bringing illegal objects can have serious consequences, and can damage your case, too. Then, find your courtroom – the number should be on the document with your first court date. Once you’ve found your courtroom, there will be a list of names, also known as the court docket, outside stating everyone who is appearing that day – make sure yours is there, and if so, enter the courtroom. Sit just behind the lawyer’s bench, and wait for your name to be called. Having a lawyer is a positive here – most courts allow lawyers to deal with their cases first, so it’s most likely that you’ll be called earlier if you have a lawyer. And of course, please make sure your phone is off, or at least on silent.
What Will Happen Next?
There are a few things that can happen once you are called to the stand. If it is your first court date, and the crime you’ve been accused of is not major, you may be offered diversion. This is where the Crown may drop charges against you if you complete some form of community service, or get some counselling related to the behaviour that caused your offence. The Crown should tell you if you are entitled to diversion, and you can talk this through with your lawyer or duty counsel, and if you both agree this is the right thing to do, you’ll receive a new court date once you’ve spoken to a diversion court worker. You must not leave the courthouse until you have received a new date and informed the Crown – only once you have gone back to the courtroom, had your name called, and informed the court of your decision and new date can you leave, as before this your case is technically still unfinished. You may also get disclosure at your first court date – this means the court will tell you everything they intend on saying including any evidence they intend on providing, the kind of sentence they will ask for, etc. You should get all of this before your trial date.
Doing your research and getting good support is the best way forward when preparing for your court date – be confident in yourself.