Tips for Virtual Court Hearings
By Jonathan Blecher on May 4, 2021
How Do I Prepare for a Zoom Court Hearing?
Virtual court hearings have become the new “norm” in the COVID-19 pandemic. Although we don’t know when all Florida courts will reopen for in-person hearings, we do know that video conference hearings are the only available option for most defendants in the state.
If you were charged with a crime in Florida, you want to be prepared for your virtual court hearing as soon as possible. No matter how comfortable you feel with technology, you should still keep certain tips in mind to best avoid technical difficulties, delays, and other challenges that could impact your criminal case.
8 Tips for Your Virtual Hearing
Zoom is the most popular video conferencing platform for virtual court hearings during the pandemic, but your hearing may be conducted via Skype or WebEx. Regardless of the platform on which your virtual hearing is conducted, take a look at the 8 tips below to better avoid any complications or adverse outcomes in your hearing:
Dress Appropriately: First impressions count, which is why you should dress in business casual clothing for your virtual hearing. Court is a formal setting, so ensure your attire aligns with these standards. Avoid wearing jeans, t-shirts, tank tops, or any revealing clothing during your hearing, as doing so could ultimately look bad on you. Not to mention, dressing incorrectly could negatively impact the outcome of your case because a judge may form unfavorable opinions about you based on your clothing.
Be Aware of Your Background: Zoom backgrounds are a useful tool if your environment is distracting or otherwise problematic. It is best to choose a quiet location for your hearing, if possible, and avoid being around children, pets, and other potential distractions. Lighting should be a major consideration when selecting your Zoom background, as poor lighting will make it difficult for judges, prosecutors, and other attendees to see you properly. As a result of too much light or not enough light, your case could suffer. Remember, first impressions count, so ensure your background or environment isn’t a problem.
Be Punctual: The saying, “If you’re on time, you’re late” couldn’t be more accurate in virtual court hearings. Generally, you will click on your court hearing link and be directed to a “waiting room” until a judge brings you in. As such, you should “arrive” early to your virtual hearing in case you experience issues such as getting into the waiting room. You want to give yourself enough time to troubleshoot if circumstances call for it. Not to mention, punctuality makes a good impression and demonstrates that you are taking your case seriously. Being late will only demonstrate the opposite, which is the last thing you need.
Do a Test Run: Do a practice session with your friend, family member, or attorney prior to your virtual hearing. They could offer feedback about your speech, mannerisms, background, and more. Treat this test run like it’s the real thing to best prepare for your actual hearing. This is especially important if you’re unfamiliar with the videoconferencing software required for your court proceeding.
Use a Headset: Rather than using your computer’s microphone, use a Bluetooth or wired headset to ensure everyone can hear you and all discussions are confidential. Using computer’s audio will likely result in poor sound quality and unexpected background noises. Headsets, whether they are Bluetooth or wired, promote confidentiality, control, and sound quality.
Ensure You Have the Correct Link: It sounds simple, but make sure you’re using the correct link for your virtual court hearing. Court proceedings occur in various stages, meaning defendants may have to juggle various links. By attending your hearing early, you and your lawyer can verify that you’re using the correct link and mitigate any issues should the link be problematic.
Mute Yourself When You’re Not Talking: One of the most common yet annoying issues with virtual court hearings is failing to mute the microphone. Many court attendees forget to mute themselves when they’re not talking, which creates distractions from noises like typing, chewing, talking, and the like. These noises tend to throw court attendees off-guard and lost track of what they’re saying. With this in mind, be sure to mute your microphone when you’re not talking.
Prepare Your Documents: Although your attorney will probably help you with this, be sure to compile all the documents and records you’ll need for your hearing. Your lawyer should inform you of the exact documents you’ll need to have on hand, but be sure to double-check with them ahead of time that you have all the information you need for your hearing.
Jonathan Blecher, P.A. is your trusted law firm when you’re facing criminal charges in Miami. As a former prosecutor with 35+ years of experience in criminal defense, you can count on me to help you overcome your challenging situation. If you have any questions about how I can serve you, contact 305-321-3237!