People go to court for many reasons. This includes situations dealing with small claims, serving in a jury, and when one enters a marriage. It can also be because their presence is needed in the court as a witness or defendant in a case.
Who Is A Defendant
In a lawsuit, a defendant is the person against whom the action is filed by a plaintiff. If involved in an arbitration or a divorce case, they’re also called the ‘respondent.’
Here are two kinds of court cases involving defendants:
- Criminal cases involving a defendant who is accused of a crime
- Civil cases that are filed by one party against another.
Contrary to a plaintiff, which is the person that started the legal action by providing the burden of proof, the defendant doesn’t have to prove their case. However, they require a different set of preparation, which will be enumerated below.
If ever you find yourself as a defendant in a criminal or civil case, know that you have the right to get legal counsel. For those serving in the armed forces who find themselves as defendants in very serious offenses, getting the services of a general court martial defense lawyer is advisable.
How Defendants Prepare For Court
Before anything else, defendants must show genuine effort to settle the case without going to court. This is to avoid the occurrence of lengthy and expensive trials.
Fortunately, there are many alternatives to court proceedings, such as mediation and arbitration. There are also many informal techniques to resolve disputes.
In cases where these alternatives won’t work, that’s the time when one needs to go to court as a defendant. To help with their preparation, here’s a list for guidance:
- Review Your Case
If you’re the defendant, take time to review precisely what the plaintiff is trying to prove against you. Look at each point of their arguments or claims. Write down items and list the evidence you think that the plaintiff will collect.
From there, think of ways or proofs that’ll explain or disprove these very same pieces of evidence. Think of scenarios wherein letters or emails were exchanged between you and the other party. You can also think of instances when the other side admitted something that supports your case.
Also, it won’t hurt to have an honest assessment of the case with yourself. What’s the plaintiff’s standing? If the plaintiff can’t display the parts of the case, they’ll lose. On the other hand, if their case is strong and there’s a high possibility that they’ll win, analyze what you can do to reduce the damages to be paid or the penalties you might receive.
You can also look for information relating to the nature of your charges as they vary. For example, stages in personal injury cases are different from those of small claims. Being informed on these matters will allow you to have realistic expectations about a case.
- Organize Your Documents And Evidence For Trial
Once you’ve gathered documents and evidence, ensure to have these replicated when filing them in court. Keep the master copies inside a standalone folder. Before the proceedings itself, secure your own copy, the judge’s, or perhaps the other side just in case they don’t have their own copies handy.
Also, it’s important that these documents are properly organized. Having your documents and evidence prepared and organized for the trial is helpful particularly if you’ll be representing your case. Organized documents will allow you to be calm in court, too.
You can achieve this by doing the following.
- Highlight the important aspects that you think are important in each document.
- If you have more than three documents, it’s recommended to put small labels on the edge of any file so you’ll be able to quickly find them.
- You can also clip related documents together.
Lastly, ensure that you have enough evidence to support your case. For small claims, good examples of proof you can provide to the court include receipts, bills, photographs of damages, contracts, and other files necessary to prove your case.
- Know What Are The Expected Behavior While In Court
Trials can be both unnerving and unpredictable, but knowing what to do can help you get through it better as a defendant.
To gain respect and leave a good impression on the judge and the jury, it’s always advisable to attend hearings punctually and dress appropriately. Aside from avoiding possible sanctions, going early in the court would allow defendants to familiarize themselves with their surroundings. Defendants are also advised to go for clothes and grooming that they would usually put on during an interview or a church event.
If you’ll find yourself as a defendant in a lawsuit or a criminal case, remember that there are things recommended for you to do so you’ll be prepared before the court. This includes reviewing your case, gathering and preparing necessary documents, as well as learning about the type of behavior expected when in court. In doing so, you’re equipped to manage the situation better.