When the coronavirus pandemic hit Southern Florida, courts closed and hearings and trials were postponed. To get things moving again, courts turned to remote hearings held on the meeting platform Zoom. This has proven to be an efficient way to take care of certain kinds of court proceedings, so it is likely that remote hearings could continue for the foreseeable future. However, just because you are tuning in to your hearing from home on a computer or cell phone, that doesn’t mean you should not take the process seriously.
Zoom Court Has the Same Power as In-Person Court
If your hearing has been scheduled to take place on Zoom, you need to realize that this is the actual hearing—not a warm-up or practice. The information presented by attorneys and decisions made by the judge are just as they would be in an in-person courtroom. As a defendant, you need to take this virtual appearance as seriously as you would an actual court appearance.
How to Prepare for a Zoom Hearing
As your defense attorney, I will make sure you have the technology and internet access you need to join the hearing at the right time. However, since you will be in your own space, the rest of the appearance will be up to you. Here are some tips for a successful Zoom court session:
Wear a clean, collared shirt or a nice sweater. Do not wear a shirt with images or writing on it. Also, WEAR PANTS! Even if you don’t think you will be seen below the waist, you never know what could happen. Judges have reported seeing defendants in pajamas, bathrobes, shirtless, and in the bathroom! Don’t let that be you.
Arrange for privacy.
Having children or pets running in and out of the room is not conducive to being taken seriously by a judge. Have a neighbor take the kids and leave the pets outside or in another room. Sit at a desk or kitchen table. Do not sit in bed or lounge on a sofa.
Eliminate other noise.
Mute your phone, turn off the television, and close other windows on your computer. Put a do not disturb sign on your door to prevent visitors or family members from interrupting the hearing.
Be aware of Zoom etiquette.
During the meeting, make sure the lighting and camera are adjusted so that your whole face can be clearly seen. Mute your microphone when you are not speaking, but remember to unmute yourself and look into the camera (not at the screen) when you are speaking.
You should not be doing anything other than participating in the hearing. Your eyes should be on your computer or phone screen the entire time. Speak clearly and say “Yes, ma’am” or “Yes sir” when addressing the judge.
If you have never participated in a Zoom meeting and are worried about it going well, I can schedule a practice session with you ahead of the hearing date.
Do You Trust Your Florida Criminal Defense Attorney?
If you are facing criminal charges in the Miami area, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who cares about the outcome of your case. Please feel free to contact me online or to call my Coral Gables office directly at 305.707.7345. You can also request my free book The Ultimate Guide to Fighting Criminal Charges in Florida, a detailed download discussing the myths, rumors, and hearsay often associated with criminal charges, what to expect from your criminal court proceedings, and important steps you must take to battle your charges.