If you are charged with a criminal felony or misdemeanor in Manassas or Prince William County, your case will likely be heard at the Prince William County Courthouse. As long-time criminal defense lawyers in Prince William County and Manassas, we want to share some of the little-known tips we give our clients at Nichols Zauzig as their day in court approaches..
- Prepare for airport-like security
When you enter the courthouse, there will be several Sherriff’s deputies operating metal detectors and x-ray detection equipment. You will walk through the metal detector. Anything you carry – bags, purses, jackets – will go through x-ray detection. Outside food and drink are not permitted. Most liquids, cameras and all types of recording devices are not allowed. Anything that could be used as a weapon, even a pocketknife or nail clippers, may be confiscated. Generally, baby bottles are allowed, and hand lotion or sanitizer are often permitted.
- Leave your cell phone at home
You may NOT bring cell phones into the building. You will be told to take them out to your car. Deputies will not hold items while you are in the building, except under special circumstances. Sometimes visitors will try to hide their phones in bushes around the courthouse, especially if they’ve been dropped off and don’t have a vehicle available. Sheriffs will find and confiscate phones left outside because they are a security risk. The best solution? Leave your cell phones at home the day of court. Keeping them in your vehicle can pose a theft risk. Fitness trackers and smart watches are generally permitted.
- Arrive early for parking
There is construction ongoing around the courthouse, making parking a serious issue, especially for morning sessions. Plan to arrive before 8:30 a.m. If not, you often have to park a 10-minute walk away from the courthouse, on neighborhood streets or at the city parking garage on Prince William Street. You should also keep in mind how long it will take to find parking in order to be on time for court.
- Use the rear entrance to avoid lines
Lines form quickly at the main entrance, especially in the morning, as attorneys, defendants, jury members and visitors must go through the security process. Many folks don’t realize there is a second entrance available, located on the lowest level and facing Church Street. Lines, if any, are much shorter at that entrance.
- Plan to eat at the cafeteria or walk several blocks to restaurants
There is a cafeteria in the lowest level of the courthouse, serving breakfast and lunch and open to all. The closest restaurants are about a five blocks away in Old Town Manassas, a seven- to nine-minute walk. It is a safe and easy walk, with crosswalks and no hills. And it’s best to walk instead of giving up a valuable parking spot. Check out this listing of restaurants, many of which are fast casual, from barbecue to sandwiches to tacos and more: http://visitmanassas.org/shop-dine/wpbdp_category/dining/. A few breakfast options are available as well.
- Attend without children if at all possible
Unless children are part of the case, it is best to arrange for childcare instead of bringing them to court with you. Some defendants mistakenly believe that judges may view sentencing more leniently if children are present. Quite the opposite is true. Judges dislike when children are in the courthouse unnecessarily. The courtroom and exterior hallways are serious environments and inappropriate for children.
- If children must attend as part of the case, a playroom is available
Sometimes children are witnesses for Juvenile & District Court cases. In those instances, a supervising person can stay with the child at an unmonitored playroom on the first floor. It contains some toys for various age levels, as well as books that can be read and taken home, free of charge. The playroom is open for all courts, however it is unmonitored at all times so a responsible person must be with your child to supervise.
- Deputies are there to help
Occasionally courtrooms can become contentious. When you are leaving, if you do not feel safe, ask a deputy if he would be willing to escort you to your vehicle. If at all possible, they will accompany you. In addition, if someone attending court is elderly, disabled or has serious mobility issues, the deputies have access to a golf cart and can often provide a ride to and from your vehicle. This is a service reserved for those truly in need. Occasionally, the cart is in use and unavailable. However, deputies do try to accommodate those needs when possible.
- Dress appropriately
Shorts and t-shirts are not permitted in many judge’s courtrooms. We recommend male defendants, at a minimum, wear long pants and a long-sleeve shirt that can be tucked in. That attire is equally appropriate for female defendants, as is a modest dress or skirt.
These facts are in addition to the basic information provided on the Prince William County court system website. There you will find information where your courtroom will be located, phone numbers and hours of operation. However, our attorneys will give you all of the information you need to know for your court date well in advance.
Put Experienced Prince William County and Manassas Lawyers At Your Side
Having a qualified and experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side at court is the best preparation if you are charged with a criminal felony or misdemeanor in Prince William County or Manassas. Our criminal lawyers have over 30 years combined experience at the Prince William County Courthouse, defending clients charged with serious crimes. They are well respected trial attorneys who will put their knowledge of the local legal community to work for you. Call 703-492-4200 today for a free consultation.