Posts Tagged ‘domestic violence’

Restraining Orders: How to Behave in Court to Help Your Case

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Emotions run very high in restraining order hearings. Yet emotions have no place in a courtroom during this type of proceeding. Instead, strategy should dominate. A Judge decides whether or not restraining orders are granted; there is no jury. That’s why it’s critical that the Judge find you more credible than your opponent. Because restraining order hearings usually take place during a divorce, custody battle, neighbor dispute or other heated relationship, it would be easy to lose your cool in court. Nothing could be worse.

Never Get Angry, Emotional, or Defensive.  It’ll Kill Your Case Every Time

You can never ever get angry in court. Ever. Nervousness is fine, but acting upset or difficult will hurt you every time. The Judge doesn’t have time to “get to know you,” so you have only minutes to make a positive impression. Don’t cry or carry on emotionally, either. It won’t get you any sympathy from the judge. Your job is to show the judge that you are reasonable and in control. Stay calm. Stay quiet. Answer questions politely, from both your attorney and the other side’s attorney. Outbursts of ANY kind, from you or friends and family in the courtroom, are going to hurt your case. It’s just that simple. I firmly believe that if the Judge were to describe you with one word, what we are aiming for is “gentleman” or “lady.”

How to Answer Questions That Make You Look Bad

The biggest mistake most people make is trying to “win the case” from the witness stand. If you’re asked an uncomfortable question, answer it honestly. If you think your answer will hurt your case, answer honestly anyway. Never try to dodge a question. Never lie. Let me say that again. Never lie. It will only make you look bad and untrustworthy. Your lawyer will get a chance to question you further and that’s when he or she can help you recover from an uncomfortable, but honest answer. In the end, the outcome of restraining order hearings is determined by the facts and the quality of the strategy employed by lawyers. Winning the case is your attorney’s job, not yours.

Why a Lawyer Experienced in Restraining Order Hearings is Important

The ability to avoid or downplay “bad facts” and highlight favorable points is the key to victory. Make sure that your criminal defense attorney has significant experience in conducting restraining order hearings. While these hearings technically take place in family court, it is critical that your lawyer have experience in criminal court, as the issues often involve criminal law, and the outcome of your case could have consequences in criminal court. Mark Zimmerman is a Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer with extensive experience handling restraining orders and violent offenses in criminal court. Don’t leave the outcome of your case to chance. Contact Mark Zimmerman for a case evaluation at (941) 364-8503 or fill out our online case evaluation form and we’ll get in touch with you immediately.

Difficult questions never have simple answers. Like all complex questions, the immediate answer is…it depends.  Is the arrestee still in jail?  If so, it might be necessary to contact a bail bondsman. If the  bond is low then the bail can be posted in full.  It will be returned in full at the conclusion of the case, assuming the arrestee made all of their court appearances. If bond is too large to make in full, then a bail bondsman will require payment, typically equal to 10% of the total bond.  That is the bondsman’s  fee, and  it will not be  returned to you.  The bondsman will also likely require that you sign over something of value as collateral to secure the bond.  This is often the title to a house, car or boat.  If the bond is so large that even paying 10% is not feasible, then effort will need to be made to lower the bond.  This requires the use of a lawyer. There are typically two opportunities to accomplish this.  The first is at a hearing held within 24 hours of arrest, at a courtroom located within the jail.  Unfortunately, family members are unable to attend this hearing.  The technical name for this hearing is a Non-Adversarial Probable  Cause Hearing, however it is commonly referred to as a First Appearance.  If a a private attorney is not retained in time for this hearing, then an Assistant Public Defender will represent the arrestee. Public Defender’s will have little time to prepare for each hearing, so hiring a private criminal defense attorney provides an advantage in preparation and strategy.  If bond is sufficiently reduced at First Appearance, then the process of  posting bail outlined above would be followed.  Be aware that some people arrested in Sarasota are released on their own recognizance, also known as ROR.  In this instance, there is  no bail required and no other conditions of release that must be complied with.  The arrestee must simply show up in court when required.  Sadly, this circumstance has become increasingly rare in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.  More common is that arrestees are given some monetary bond and also placed on a community supervision program known as Supervised  Pretrial Release, or SPR.  In Sarasota, this program is administered  by a government agency known as  Pretrial Services.  If an arrestee released from jail in Sarasota fails to comply with any of their conditions of release, Pretrial Services will forward a warrant for their re-arrest to a local Judge.  Typical release conditions include contacting Pretrial Services telephonically, appearing at their offices, submitting to urinalysis and attending counseling.  If bond is not reduced sufficiently to secure the arrestee’s release, then a Bond Reduction Hearing will need to be scheduled. This can be done as soon as  a few days from arrest, and occasionally could take several weeks. At this hearing, an attorney would present to the Judge the reasons why they should be confident that the arrestee will, in fact, appear for their scheduled court dates, and why they do not pose a danger to our community.  If bond is not reduced sufficiently after this hearing, it is possible that the arrestee will spend the pendency of the case  in jail.  This can occur in very serious  cases involving  certain felony charges, or where the  arrestee has a significant prior record.  In some extreme cases, the Judge will allow no bond.  This means that no amount of monetary bail can secure the arrestee’s release.  In this instance the proper motion to be filed would  be a Motion to Set Bond (as opposed to a Motion to Reduce Bond). Again, this will require the services of an attorney. Stay tuned for my future post on things to consider when hiring a criminal defense attorney in Sarasota.