In our society, we live by long-established rules of “good conduct” and “proper etiquette.” Whether we’re at church, taking a class, waiting in line someplace, or holding doors for strangers, we are expected to be polite, courteous, and follow the standard etiquette rules for the given situation, and courtrooms are NO exception.
In the courtroom, we advise all of our clients that proper courtroom etiquette is essential for making a good impression on the judge and the prosecutor. But, proper etiquette doesn’t apply to only defendants: criminal defense attorneys, witnesses, and jurors are all expected to dress appropriately, show respect for the judge and the court, and be on their best behavior.
While a fresh haircut, a collared shirt that’s tucked in (for men), a powered-off cellphone, and a polite and respectful tone may seem minor, we assure you they are not. These are all considered “proper courtroom etiquette” and when a defendant lacks the proper attire and attitude, it can be disastrous to their case.
Criminal defendants must always observe courteous courtroom behavior. When they address the court, the judge is the main focal point. When the judge enters or leaves the room, they must rise, and when asked a direct yes or no question, the defendant should always follow with “sir” or “ma’am.”
Criminal defense lawyers are in the practice of informing their clients about the proper courtroom etiquette before their court appearances. Despite their best efforts, most defense lawyers have stories about defendants they’ve seen through their careers that made significant blunders in court.
Common courtroom mistakes include interrupting the judge, wearing inappropriate clothing (e.g. sandals, T-shirts, tank tops, short skirts), using foul language, arguing with the judge, and answering one’s cell phone.
Proper courtroom etiquette can determine whether a judge will be lenient or harsh on a defendant, and history has made it clear that poor dress presentation and bad manners in the courtroom can have a huge effect on a judge’s demeanor, and how a judge handles a case.
Basic courtroom etiquette:
- Arrive early
- Shut off your cellphone before entering the courtroom
- Get a haircut if you need one
- Dress nicely and as if you’re attending church or applying for a bank job
- Don’t chew gum
- Refer to the judge as “Your Honor”
- NEVER interrupt the judge when he or she is talking
- If the judge interrupts you, stop talking right away
- Do not use foul language or raise your voice
- Speak to your attorney, the judge, the prosecutor, and courtroom staff with respect
- Don’t show up at court with your children
- Stand when the judge enters or leaves the room
Don’t underestimate the power of a good impression in court – it can go a long way just as a bad impression can be extremely detrimental to the outcome of your case. If you are facing criminal charges in Denton and need legal representation, contact our office for a free initial consultation.