What can I Expect at a Court Hearing?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 February 2020
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If you have an upcoming court hearing, you can expect a judge or magistrate and the opposing party to be there. You will need to conduct yourself with courtroom etiquette. Do not make strict commitments because your matter may not be dealt with as quickly as you think. Do not worry about a verdict because guilt or innocence is not generally determined at this point.

A court hearing is a formal part of the legal procedure in both criminal and civil cases. There are several types of hearings and these can vary from one court system to another. This means your expectations should vary dependingpon your location and the purpose for the gathering. There are some common characteristics of these proceedings, however.

For example, you can generally expect the presence of a judge or magistrate. If you have already secured legal representation, you can expect your lawyer to be present. In criminal cases, the prosecutor should be at the hearing. In civil cases, the opposing party and her legal representative will also be there.

It is common for courts to schedule numerous hearings for the same day and same time. Of course everyone's case cannot be handled simultaneously. Do not make the mistake of thinking that because you are ordered to appear at 9 a.m. that you will be attended to promptly. It is possible that you could spend an entire day waiting for your turn.


You can also expect to be bound by the etiquette that normally dictates courtroom behavior. You need to follow the commands of the judge or magistrate. If you are told to rise or to stop talking, you need to do so. Be aware that you can be found in contempt of court for the behavior at your hearing and there is usually an officer of the law present to ensure order is maintained.

Usually, a court hearing is an opportunity for some issue to be addressed or for information to be communicated between the parties involved. If, for example, you have criminal charges and your lawyer has found some reason that they should be dropped, he may submit a motion to dismiss and the judge can decide whether or not to proceed with the case. What you should not expect, however, is for a verdict to be issued at a court hearing. At your preliminary court hearing, you should be prepared to enter a plea.

In civil cases, determinations may be made about how future court appearances will proceed. For example, certain evidence may be deemed inadmissible ahead of the trial. Do not be shocked if you are encouraged to settle the case ahead of time.


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Post 3

So I have a hearing on Friday for a default debt. I'm scared, to say the least. My state is one of those that can throw people in jail for unpaid debts. I have no attorney. I can't afford on and I'm currently on unemployment. Will that help? Any advice?

Post 2

I was called in as a witness to a family court hearing, so I had a seat in the gallery. The proceedings were very matter-of-fact, with none of the drama I thought I'd see. Both sides presented a straightforward set of facts to the judge about their suitability as guardians, and the judge said he would listen to testimony from witnesses at 9am the next morning. I had to cancel another day's appointments because of the delay, but that's what happens a lot during court hearings.

Post 1

If it's anything like my own court hearing experience, you probably won't understand most of what's going on. The judge and the attorneys have been doing their jobs for so long that they handle most legal matters among themselves. You're only in the courtroom so you can "aid in your defense", according to the law. It's not like the courtroom scenes on TV.

In my case, it was a divorce court hearing. My wife and her attorney were on one side of the courtroom, and I and my attorney were on the other side. The attorneys and the judge did most of the talking, and I really couldn't hear most of it. The entire hearing was over in just an hour or so.

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