Going to court during ordinary circumstances can be stressful. The global pandemic has made court feel even more concerning. At Milios Defense, we have been working with the courts we practice in to determine each court’s policies for hearings and how best to support our clients through their case under new and ever-changing circumstances.
One of the ways that many courts are addressing the need for social distancing and to prevent the spread of the virus is by conducting virtual court hearings. Not all courts are offering virtual hearings for all types of cases or specific hearings, but many are. In courts where virtual hearings are not an option, face masks and social distancing are required.
Many virtual hearings are being conducted over the Zoom platform. Prior to your hearing you will hear from your attorney and possibly the court as well, to give you the directions for your required participation. You can follow the steps bellow to have a successful Zoom experience:
- Prior to your hearing, and preferably at least the day before, download the Zoom application onto your cell phone, tablet or if you plan to use your computer, go to the Zoom home page. You will want to familiarize yourself with the app, there are lots of great tutorials on YouTube It will make your hearing feel much less stressful if you aren’t confused by technology. Failure to appear at your virtual hearing at the time you are scheduled could result in a “failure to appear or FTA” being noted by the court and the possibility of a warrant being issued.
- On the day of your hearing, check in with your attorney a half hour before to confirm you are both ready to go. This is a good time to ask any questions that you have of your lawyer about the details of the hearing. Some courts are using “break out rooms” if you have questions. This means that the court clerk will put you and your attorney in a “private zoom room”. No one else will be able to hear you and you can ask questions there. If the court does not use these break out rooms, you will either need to text or call your attorney to ask your question. That is absolutely fine, it is important to know and understand all that is going on.
- Sign on to the Zoom hearing about 10 minutes before it is scheduled to begin. You may be in a “waiting room” until the clerk opens the meeting, or you may find yourself in the courtroom right away. You do not need to announce yourself. Just as if you were sitting in the courtroom, there may be several people on the calendar. Your case will be called so you should be listening for your name.
- Plan on being in a quiet and private place without distractions. Children and animals can draw your attention away from the proceedings so please arrange for their care during your hearing.
- Your image will be on the Zoom screen both in the courtroom and for the people also having hearings. Consider the optics. It is important that you are dressed appropriately and neatly groomed. Consider that people can see everything that is behind you. A neutral background that does not include other people or information about your private life is wise. We would like you to present yourself in the best light.
- When you enter the virtual courtroom, use the “mute” feature on the screen so that you are not adding to the background noise or creating any feedback. You can also mute your image if your case is not the one being heard. If your image is on the screen, be mindful of your facial expressions and actions so as to appear serious and professional.
- Your attorney will do most of the talking on your behalf but be prepared to speak if asked a direct question. When you do speak, do so clearly and loudly.
- Many judges will give directions at the beginning of the hearing. Listen carefully and follow those directions.
- You are not permitted to record the hearing without previous authorization of the court. All hearings are being recorded by the court’s recording system.
- You may leave the Zoom hearing as soon as your matter is complete.
- After the hearing, you may phone your attorney for a wrap up conversation.
By following these guidelines, your matter will be handled smoothly and professionally. Give us a call if you are seeking help with your case.