For one reason or another, you find yourself having to make an appearance in court. You have never been and not sure how to make your time in court successful. It’s natural to be nervous and you may not know all the proper courtroom etiquette.
There’s proper etiquette to follow in the courtroom. It doesn’t matter if you’re the defendant, plaintiff, or witness. How you dress, your actions, and what you say can have an impact on the court proceedings.
Attitude and what you look like matter. Although no one can predict the outcome of a case, there are tips for being in the courtroom that everyone should follow.
How you dress is the first impression you give the court. You want to be clean and well-groomed.
If you’re a man get your hair trimmed, shave, or groom the facial hair you do have. Women should be clean and have their hair pulled back if it’s long.
Your appearance should be neat and professional. Dress in the way you would if you were going to a job interview or to church.
Men should wear dress pants, a collared shirt, a jacket, and a tie. Women should wear a dress or skirt that has a professional length. You may also wear dress pants with a conservative blouse.
You don’t want crazy hair, so if it’s a bright dyed color consider dying it back to its natural color.
Don’t wear any non-business attire such as open toes shoes, flip-flops, tank tops, and t-shirts.
If you had to come straight from your place of employment, then it’s wise to mention that.
If you wear jewelry make sure it’s conservative and does not make jingling noises. No facial jewelry for men.
Respecting the Court
You want to make sure you act in a respectable manner towards the court. Respect the process and the judge.
Do not be late! If you’re late your case could get passed by.
When you do arrive, inform the clerk you are present. Also, inform the clerk if you have to leave the courtroom before your case has been called.
It’s best to arrive fifteen to thirty minutes early. This will give you time to compose yourself and there will be no stressing about running late. You’ll also have time to get familiar with your surroundings and where things are.
Do not chew gum, smoke, and no electrical devices. No food or drinks are allowed in the courtroom. Make sure you eat beforehand. If you have a mobile phone make sure it’s on silent.
Depending on the court, children may or may not be allowed. If your children do attend make sure they have another adult with them in case they have to leave the courtroom. They must remain calm and quiet.
Be Respectful and Serious
Be polite to everyone and try to keep a calm demeanor.
While waiting for your case to be heard, do not read a book or play on the phone. Pay attention and listen carefully.
Stand when the judge enters and exits. If you speak directly to the judge you must also stand unless you’re on the witness stand. You have to wait for permission to move towards the judge or jury. If you have not been told then stay where you are.
Address the judge as ‘Your Honor’. It’s also respectful if you use “Sir” or “Ma’am”. Your attorney should instruct you on how to act.
Do not talk to the opposing counsel or the other party. If you know the other party, do not use their first name. Use their last names when talking about them. Always be polite towards them.
Speaking in Court
You may wonder what to say and when to say it while in the courtroom. You want to wait until you’re called before you speak about the case.
Do not speak unless you have permission or have been told to do so. Use a normal voice. Emotions can run high so try to remain calm and speak slowly with a moderate tone.
You want to speak clear and loud enough that everyone in the court can hear you.
You do not want to argue or speak to the opposing side. Wait your turn to talk. Do not interrupt anyone, especially the judge.
If during testimony, the judge or lawyer starts talking then you must stop talking. Do not talk over a person. You may ask to resume speaking when they have concluded.
Testifying in Court
When you are called to testify try not to let nerves get the best of you.
When asked a question, listen to each question and have them repeat it if needed. You want to be clear about what they’re asking so you can answer in an honest way.
Answer with only facts and not opinions. Do not embellish answers thinking it’ll help.
You can also say, “I do not know” or “I do not remember”. Do not lie if you don’t know.
Don’t offer up any extra information unless you are told to do so by your lawyer. Simple yes or no answers are okay.
No matter what’s said do not lose your temper. Keep calm because getting angry could get you in trouble and hurt your testimony. Answer all questions even if you find them silly.
Prepared For the Court Room
The tips on courtroom behavior will help ease some of the stress you may be going through. Knowing the proper courtroom etiquette and behavior will be one less worry.
Feel confident that you know what to do and say.
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