Most cases in the criminal justice system resolve short of trial. However, this is not always the case. If your case is scheduled for trial, there are steps you should take to prepare yourself. Some steps involve understanding the way a case is tried. Other steps are planning steps – homework that is well worth your time prior to your trial date.
Below are recommended things you can do to prepare yourself for trial. Your Georgia DUI attorney will also be able to walk you through these and other steps to help you prepare. As you probably know, court can be intimidating, but taking measures in advance to know what you are getting into will help you in the end.
Consider What You Will Wear to Court
Planning ahead of time what you will wear at your trial may sound silly, but the morning of trial is not the time to discover your suit no longer fits, there are buttons missing from your blouse, or there is a yogurt stain on your jacket. Take a moment to decide what you will wear. Make sure the clothing fits well, is clean, and all buttons and zippers are in working order. If you do not appear in court regularly, you may not have a deep bench of suits to select from. Do not panic or go out and buy an expensive suit you will never wear again. As a general rule of thumb, you want to appear professional and respectful. If you already wear a suit every day for your job, you can wear a suit to court for your trial, but this is not required.
For men, a button-down shirt and a pair of dress pants are fine. For women, a blouse and skirt, or a blouse and a pair of dress pants are fine. Do not wear tennis shoes to trial. Do not wear spandex to trial. Broadly speaking, you want to dress in a professional manner that conveys to both the judge and jury you take this seriously and have respect for the process.
Take a Trip to the Courthouse
Even though you have been to the courthouse before, your trial may be set at a different time than your other court appearances. If you are able, take the time to travel to the courthouse around the same time as you would on the day of your trial. Note traffic patterns and consider how this might affect the length of time you need to travel from your home to the courthouse on the day of trial. Also consider how much time it may take to park and get through security when you arrive. It is a good idea to identify at least two viable parking options so that you have a backup plan, should your first choice be full upon arrival.
Meet with Your Attorney
First and foremost, it is essential that you meet with your attorney before a trial. When your attorney requests a meeting, either over the phone or in person, it is because he needs to meet with you to discuss the case. Do not disregard this meeting. If the attorney asks you to prepare ahead of time, take the time to put in the requested preparation.
Understanding The Rules of Court
At trial, the state presents their evidence first. The defense doesn't get to present witnesses until the state has exhausted the witnesses they want to call. However, this doesn't mean the defense isn't putting on a defense when the state calls witnesses. Often, the defense attorney obtains evidence from the state's witnesses through the process of cross-examination. In other words, when a state calls a witness and takes testimony, they then “pass the witness” to the defense for questioning.
If, for example, a police officer stopped the car and arrested the defendant but failed to follow proper procedure, both the state and the defense will have questions for the witness. The state will ask questions about the stop of the car and the arrest. The defense attorney, however, will have questions about the proper procedure, and the cop's failure to follow proper procedure in the case at hand.
Sometimes defendants get frustrated because the defense doesn't call as many witnesses as the government. However, skilled defense attorneys extract relevant testimony when they can – including during the state's case in chief.
When evidence is presented in court through witnesses, there are rules about the types of questions an attorney can ask. When an attorney offers a witness on “direct,” the attorney generally asks “open-ended questions.” In other words, the attorney will ask questions like this:
- Did you observe anyone?
- Who was it?
- What were they doing?
- Then what happened?
- What happened next?
- And then what happened?
Notice how none of the questions suggest the answer. Instead, as open-ended questions, they give the person answering the question the ability to choose how she will answer the question.
On cross-examination, on the other hand, the questions suggest the answer. Cross-examination looks like this:
- Did you see Ms. Muffet?
- Was she sitting on a tuffet?
- Was she also eating curds and whey?
- At some point, did a spider come along?
- And did the spider sit down beside her?
- Did this frighten Ms. Muffet away?
Note how each sentence calls for a one-word, yes-or-no answer. Note also that, in this series, each sentence calls for a “yes” answer. The technique of asking closed-ended, yes-or-no questions is an appropriate way to ask questions on cross-examination.
When Your Case is Set for Trial
When your case is set for trial, you should make every effort to prepare for trial. This includes taking steps such as making sure you know where the case will be tried, where to park, and budgeting your time to include getting through security. It also includes taking the time necessary to meet with your attorney to review the facts and circumstances of your case. If your attorney asks you to provide information, follow through is essential.
If you have been arrested for a DUI or related crime, contact a Georgia DUI lawyer today at 404-816-4440.