New Hanover County Court: Where to Go, What to Know & What to Wear

Written by Thom Goolsby

Criminal Defense

Going to court for the first time can be stressful. It’s best to prepare: Know where you’re going, when you need to be there, what to wear and what to expect. If you have any questions about your case, the court process, and effective representation in New Hanover County, do not hesitate to contact the Goolsby Law Firm at (910) 763-3339.

Attorney Thom Goolsby is a veteran trial lawyer with genuine courtroom experience. He is a fixture in court, fighting for his clients. If you have questions or need help, leave voicemail, send a text or email. We will be in touch as soon as possible to discuss how we can assist you.

Getting to the Courthouse

The New Hanover County Courthouse is located at:

316 Princess Street
Wilmington, North Carolina 28401

The court is located on the southeast corner of Princess Street and North 3rd Street. It is open between 8:00 AM through 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday.

Be Prepared for Security: No Weapons, including pocket knives.

Every courthouse requires you to go through security — and it might get busy.

You should arrive early for your court date. There is handicap parking located in the back of the courthouse, along with handicap access to the building. Other parking for the courthouse includes the Ligon-Flynn Lot on South 2nd Street, the Second Street Parking Lot, or the City of Wilmington 2nd Street Parking Deck. There are several parking options within a few blocks from court, including metered parking on the street.

If you have a disability and need accommodations, contact the Disability Access Coordinator (DAC) at the courthouse. In New Hanover County the DAC can be reached at 910-772-6603.

Know Which Courtroom to Go to

If you are not sure of the time, date and location of your criminal court case, look at your citation, warrant or Magistrate’s paperwork. You can also search online or call the Superior Court Clerk’s office in the county where your case will be heard.

When you get to the courthouse and through security, proceed to your courtroom. In New Hanover County, a docket will be posted on a table near the entry floor elevators. Your last name and case number should be on that docket.

Find Out the Duration of the Court Call

You should know the day and time of your court call. If you have an attorney, he will tell you whether or not you need to be present or if he will be continuing your case without needing you in court. If you do not have a lawyer, you will always be required to be present.

The prosecutor assigned to your courtroom will call all the cases on the calendar. You must wait for your turn and answer that you are present. Do not miss calendar call. If you do not appear and answer, you will be “Called and Failed” and a warrant for your arrest will be issued. Court could last all day. Make sure you take off enough time from work and schedule childcare for the entire court call.

Know Why You’re There

There are several types of hearings for which the court may require you to appear, such as an arraignment, bond hearing, show cause hearing, pre-trial status conference, motion hearing, plea or jury trial. The type of hearing determines what you should expect. It is very important to consult a lawyer so you understand what is happening in your case. There is very little for you to do at an arraignment other than to enter your plea, whereas you should be thoroughly prepared to argue your case at trial.

What to Wear to Court

Court is a formal occasion. You should be presentable. You do not necessarily need to wear a full suit, but it is advisable to wear a business casual dress or slacks and a dress shirt or blouse. It is safe to choose a conservative option and keep your legs and arms covered. If you dress like a bum, you can expect to be treated like one in court.

Have Your Evidence Ready

Whether or not you need to bring documents or evidence to court depends on your case. You would not have evidence at an arraignment, but you might for a motion hearing or trial. If you’re representing yourself, bring at least three copies of each piece of evidence — one for you, one for the judge and one for the prosecutor.

When presenting the evidence to the judge, tell the judge what it is, how you know it is authentic (that it really is what you say it is). The bailiff will take that piece of evidence from you, show it to the other party (or give them a copy) and then give the evidence to the judge. The prosecutor may object to the evidence on legal grounds and the judge may exclude its use.

It is helpful to work with an attorney who will thoroughly prepare you for the court call.

What You’ll See in Court

When you walk in there will be a seating area for defendants and witnesses. There is always some type of bar or railing separating the seating area from the rest of the courtroom. The prosecutor will sit at one table. The defendant and his/her attorney will sit at another table.

There will be an area for a jury to sit off to the side of the judge, though it will be empty, unless you are going through a jury trial. There will be a court clerk up near the front who keeps track of the cases for the judge and records decisions. In Superior Court there will be a court reporter or stenographer to keep a record of the hearing. There are also bailiffs for security and who keep order in the courtroom. They are the local sheriff’s deputies.

If you have an attorney, find them to discuss your case and wait. When you are called, you or your lawyer will have a chance to speak to the judge.

Attorneys Often Resolve Cases During Court Calls

Attorneys and parties often talk with one another during court calls to try and resolve cases. The prosecutor might approach you or your lawyer. If you have an attorney and are approached, tell the prosecutor you are represented and point out your lawyer. You should not talk to the prosecutor without your lawyer present. If you’re representing yourself, it is your choice whether to speak with the prosecutor or not.

Have Questions About Going to Court?

You do not have to go to court alone. If you’ve been charged with a crime, Attorney Thom Goolsby can represent you. He has practiced law for over 25 years and knows the ins-and-outs of the North Carolina court system. He’ll guide you through each step of a criminal court case and prepare you for every necessary court appearance.

Contact Goolsby Law Firm at (910) 763-3339 or online to schedule a free consultation.

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Contact Goolsby Law Firm Today

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    “This is what I do. This is what I love. I care about my clients. I will help you.”


    212 Walnut St. Suite 100
    Wilmington, North Carolina 28401

    Like any quality criminal defense attorney, Thom Goolsby may be in court when you first call, but leave a voice mail or send a text. We’ll get with you as soon as possible, so we can go over what happened, evaluate the case, and explain what comes next.