How to Prepare for Your Virtual Court Hearing
Due to COVID-19, many criminal court trials have shifted to communication technology platforms such as Zoom. While this alternative is highly efficient, and, frankly, the only option afforded to many people, it is important to prepare accordingly. Many people are understandably unfamiliar with the Zoom court hearing process, which is why our Milwaukee criminal defense attorney describes 10 tips below to prepare for your virtual court proceeding:
Test your internet connection: Your internet connection must be stable and reliable. If It is not, consider using a hard-wire Ethernet cable, as it will be faster and more dependable than Wi-Fi. A stable internet connection is crucial to a smooth, uninterrupted court hearing, which is why you must prioritize using it. However, if, under any circumstances, you do not have reliable internet, you must contact the court clerk as soon as possible because they may postpone your hearing until everyone can participate safely or help you find alternatives such as using free Wi-Fi hotspots or helping you access a phone or stable internet connection.
Use a high-quality webcam, speaker, and microphone: To better hear other participants in your Zoom court hearing, it is advised that you obtain a solid speaker or headphones. Equally as important is your microphone and webcam. Prosecutors, judges, and other participants will have trouble handling your case if they cannot hear you speak to them nor see you. As such, invest the necessary time and resources into your virtual court hearing, as it could make a significant difference in the flow and, potentially, the outcome of your criminal case.
Select a quiet, non-distracting location: Ensure you join your Zoom court hearing from a silent place. Anticipate the distractions you may experience, such as loud children or pets, so that you can minimize and control them ahead of your hearing. Many criminal defendants in virtual trials impede on their own hearing because of distractions they could have controlled prior to their Zoom court date. Don’t let this happen to you. Your criminal defense attorney may be able to help you identify potential distractions and offer solutions to mitigate them accordingly.
Ensure good lighting in your selected location: If court participants cannot see you, they will not grasp an idea of who you are. For instance, sitting in a poorly-lit area, a room with bright lights, or in a position where windows are directly behind you, will prohibit participants from seeing you properly. Not only is poor lighting distracting but also potentially harmful to your case. Just as you would in court, put your best foot forward because first impressions count.
Dress properly: As mentioned above, you must make a good impression and demonstrate respect by dressing business casual, just like you would in court. Court is a formal place, so dressing appropriately is often required by most criminal court judges. Failing to do say may negatively impact a judge’s or jury’s impression of you, and, as a result, your case. Although judges and juries must be impartial, they may still be influenced by your attire even if they’re consciously trying not to be.
Prepare your court documents ahead of time: Don’t be the person who takes up everyone’s valuable time because you didn’t prepare your court case documents prior to your hearing. It may be deemed disrespectful and inconvenient to others, and may prolong your Zoom hearing altogether. This may also result in delays to other Zoom hearings following yours.
Mute yourself when not speaking: Of all issues one could experience in their Zoom court hearing, unmuted microphones is a primary one. Many court hearing participants forget to mute their microphones when they’re not talking, resulting in confusion and distractions. For instance, a judge may be speaking and all participants quietly listening, but if a prosecutor’s baby was screaming from another room and their microphone was not muted, all participants may lose focus of what the judge is saying. Accidents like these happen, of course, but they can be costly and consequential.
Speak slowly: Enunciating and pacing your words will help others understand you. Your words are extremely powerful in your case, as you are defending your freedom, therefore you must ensure that a judge and jury can hear you and easily interpret what you’re saying. We understand that you may be nervous and jittery as you partake in your Zoom court hearing, especially if it’s your first one, therefore we encourage you to emphasize speaking slowly and enunciating your words as much as possible.
Do not interrupt others: Speaking over other people while they are talking is disrespectful and can confuse and judge and jury about what is being said. As much as you might want to correct, or “fact-check,” a participant, doing so will only backfire.
Run a Zoom test: For safe measure, call a friend or family member via Zoom before your scheduled hearing to ensure all required technological functions operate properly. Your friend or family member may offer feedback as to how you can improve your speech, environment, and video and sound quality, which will benefit you when it comes time to joining your actual Zoom court hearing.
If you have questions about your virtual criminal case, please contact us at (414) 882-8382!