If you have been put on notice of an upcoming trial in your criminal case it is important that you take the necessary steps to ensure that both you and your attorney are fully prepared. By properly preparing you give yourself the best chance of a favorable outcome. This article is designed to provide basic guidance to defendants and their families in both misdemeanor and felony criminal cases.
1. Ensure that you have identified all of your witnesses and have provided their contact information to your attorney. Determine whether or not your witnesses will voluntarily appear or if arrangements need to be made to formally subpoena them. By reviewing your witnesses with your attorney in advance of trial you provide an opportunity for both your lawyer and your witness to prepare for their testimony. Further by ensuring that your witness is notified of your Court date in advance allows them to make necessary arrangements for child care, work or travel as necessary.
2. Review your fee arrangements with your attorney and any expert witnesses that you have retained. You do not want to put your attorney in the position of preparing for your trial with any uncertaintly as to whether or not they are going to be paid. If you have any expert witnesses who are not paid in advance of trial they may not show up to testify on your behalf.
3. Plan on what you are going to wear. If you are going to be appearing in front of a judge or jury on a serious case it is important that you look your best. Make sure that your clothes are professionally cleaned and pressed. Shine your shoes. If you do not have a properly fitting suit, shirt or tie buy new ones. If you do not know how to pick out clothes for Court ask your attorney for help.
4. More on looking your best – You may need to consider if you need to cover up any tattoos. Ideally you should not have any tattoos visible in Court during your trial. You may also need a haircut of a manicure. These details may matter – especially if your credibility is going to be considered by the Court.
5. Prepare for last minute plea negotiations. Often times the prosecution may make a last ditch plea offer immediately before your trial is to begin. These offers may the be same as have been made before or may be different (not necessarily better). You can be placed under substantial pressure by the Court to make a quick decision – and in fact may be given only seconds or minutes to decide in some cases.
6. Review your case with your lawyer. Understand what elements the prosecution must prove and by what evidence they will try to use. If you have not already done so ask to review a copy of your case discovery with your attorney. To prepare for any last minute plea negotiations you should understand what the minimum and maximum sentence could be and what the tendencies of your trial judge are.