Preparing for Court

Last Reviewed: October, 2022 Reviewed by: JES Download

Write out what you plan to say: It is a good idea to try to write down what you plan to say. You can write an outline, or write every word. You probably will not end up saying exactly what you write, but trying to write it out is a good exercise. Take the time to actually say what you plan to say out loud.

Note all the important points you want to get from the witnesses


At least the day before: At least the day before you go to Court, make sure that you have everything you need.

Decide what clothes you are going to wear: Court is a formal and serious setting, and you will make a better impression if you dress nicely. Above all, you want to let the Court know through how you dress that you respect the process and take it seriously.

Get your documents together: Make sure that you have all the documents that relate to your case. This will vary depending on where you are in the criminal process. Make sure your material is organized so you know what is where.

Get your supplies together: You need something to take notes. If you would like to use a laptop or tablet to take notes, that is also permitted (but be sure to turn sound off). However, everyone should bring paper and several pens as well.

Make a plan for how to get there: You should know how to get to Court, and also how long it is going to take you at the time of day you have to be there. If you have been making trips to the registry in the early afternoon, it could take much longer to get there during morning rush hour.

Plan your meals and snacks: You cannot eat in Court. However, you can eat outside Court on breaks. If you start getting low blood sugar, it can be very hard to concentrate. Also, you will probably have about an hour and a half for lunch. You may need this time to prepare, research, or just relax and recharge. It is a good idea not to have to be looking for food. You can drink water in Court and a water cup may be provided for you. Do not bring in other beverages, including coffee or tea.


The Morning Before Court

Set more than one alarm: You want to make sure that you get up in plenty of time to be ready for Court.

Shower, shave, dress: Spend enough time on your appearance that you feel confident and look respectful.

Consider exercising: If you have time, doing some light exercise may help sharpen you for the day.

Eat a good breakfast: Make sure to have a healthy breakfast that will give you the energy to get through the day.

Leave in plenty of time: Plan on arriving at Court at least half an hour before your scheduled time.


At the Courthouse

Find out what courtroom you are in: There will be a Court list in the lobby of the courthouse that tells you what courtroom to go to. If you cannot find it, ask a security guard and they can assist.

Arrive at the courtroom at least 15 minutes early: The courtroom will open up 15 minutes before your scheduled court time. You should be there when it opens.

Silence your cellphone: When you go into the courtroom, silence your cell phone and make sure the sound is off if you are using a laptop or tablet.

Be friendly to, or ignore, the Crown prosecutor: You will see the other side (government lawyers, also called the “Crown prosecutor”) inside or outside the courtroom. This may be the first time you have seen them in a while. You may feel angry towards them, but there is nothing to be gained by being rude or disrespectful. If you cannot speak to them with respect and courtesy, then just ignore them.

Check in with the Court clerk: Once the courtroom is open, there will be someone sitting in front of where the judge sits, by a computer screen. That is the court clerk. You will need to “check in'' with that person. That means telling them what case you are there for, your name, and your role (the defendant).

Set up, or sit in the gallery: If yours is the only case being heard in that courtroom that day, then you can set up your material. You will see a podium in the centre of the front of the courtroom.

If there is another matter that is being heard before yours, find a seat in the gallery (the audience section of the courtroom) and wait your turn. It will be the same judge who hears the first matter that hears yours, so take some time to observe them. What are they like? Does something the parties in the earlier case do seem to work? To not work?

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