A defendant’s behavior in court matters. A court appearance is an important time in a criminal case, and your behavior will reflect, for better or worse, upon your case. There are many things that you can do to improve your chances of a positive outcome. The following suggestions for how to dress and behave in court are designed to help your case in any way possible:
- Dress appropriately for court. Too many people arrive for a court hearing wearing casual clothing. This shows disrespect to the court and the judicial process. If a judge feels the court is being disrespected, problems may arise. The fact is that regardless of the setting, appearances matter. Don’t hurt your chances in a criminal proceeding with inappropriate clothing.
- Men should wear a suit and tie or a dress shirt, a tie, and dress pants. Wear clothes that fit well, and do not wear clothing that is too tight or too loose. Wear closed-toe shoes with dark socks and make sure that your shoes are clean and polished. Your appearance will help demonstrate that you are mature and respectful of the court.
- Women should also dress conservatively when appearing in court. Wear a conservative dress or suit that demonstrates you are mature and respectful of the court. As with men, do not wear clothing that is too tight or too loose. Wear conservative and sensible shoes that fit with the court setting.
- Wear clothing that is subdued. Avoid strong colors and patterns.
- Groom yourself before court. Shower, get a haircut, and make sure that that your appearance is neat and clean.
- Cover any tattoos and remove any piercings that you can. Tattoos can be a personal expression of identity and style. But in court, exposed tattoos and piercings may send a message that a client doesn’t respect the norms of the court. Be sure to cover any tattoos that you can and remove any piercings may appear out of the normal.
- Keep your appearance simple and clean. There is no need to make things complicated. Show the court that you respect their standards by dressing according to their expectations.
- Respect the court’s rules on appearance. Courtrooms are conservative places, so you should follow the rules above. That said, some courts may allow for variation. Talk with your lawyer and follow the customs of the court.
- Arrive early for your appearance. We’ve all had times when we’ve run a bit late. A court appearance should not be one of those times. Plan ahead for transportation and parking. Arrive early and leave enough time to get through a security screening.
- Treat the judge with respect. A judge is the authority in a courtroom. People can be held in contempt and arrested for not treating the judge with respect. Help your case as best you can: show the judge that you are respectful and mature.
- If you need to address the judge, address them as, “Your Honor.”
- Never interrupt the judge when they are speaking.
- Stand when a judge enters a courtroom or leaves a courtroom. Watch your attorney and others in the courtroom if you are unsure.
- Stand when addressing the judge.
- Answer the judge’s questions truthfully and respectfully.
- Treat prosecutors and witnesses with respect. In a criminal case, emotions can run high. Remember that your conduct and your language will reflect directly on your case. Demonstrate that you are respectful and have self-control. If you are unsure when and how to respond to statements, consult with your lawyer. Never interrupt someone else when they are speaking.
- Monitor your body language. Not all communication is verbal. Posture, eye-rolling, sighing, and many other actions can hurt you in a court proceeding. Stay calm and composed while you are in court.
- Keep distractions and conversations outside of the courtroom. Do not bring your children into the court. Leave them with a relative or a caretaker instead. Turn off your cell phone and be sure to remove any distractions. When you’re in court, distractions can disrupt the proceedings, and when you cause disruptions, you may hurt your case.
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