How do I know where to go once I get to court?

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State courts devoted to criminal cases can resemble train stations during rush hour: crowded, confusing, and noisy. Learning about the layout of a courthouse in advance of an appearance can help reduce anxiety: Although you may have no idea how your case will unfold, you’ll feel better if you at least know where you need to be.

(For information on initial court appearances, see Arraignment: Getting to Court.)

Getting in. To enter the courthouse, you may have to pass through security and metal detectors. These can result in long lines, so leave plenty of time to get where you need to go.

Which way? Courthouses usually have guards, directories, or both near the main entrance. Either can direct defendants, witnesses, and anyone else to “Department J,” “Judge Paul’s courtroom,” or any other location.

Which courtroom? Many cities and counties have court websites where, before even going to court, you can search for cases by name or other designation to find the courtroom for, and other information about, a given case. For an example, see the Alameda County Superior Court website.

Some courthouses have central displays that show which cases are in which courtrooms. In addition, individual courtrooms often have posted listings near their doors showing which cases will be heard there that day. Those who nevertheless can’t determine where to go should check in with the courthouse clerk’s office for help. (If both civil and criminal matters are handled in the courthouse, there often will be separate courthouse clerk offices for each—see What happens at the criminal clerk's office?)

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