Whether you have been charged with a very serious crime or are facing a traffic ticket, there are a number of rules you must follow in order to appear before a judge. Here are some rules to keep in mind when going to court.
Dress For Success:
The easiest way to show a judge that you respect the court and that you take this matter seriously is to show up well-groomed and in appropriate attire. Wear a suit or other professional attire and be well groomed. Facial hair is acceptable, but keep it trimmed and neat. For men, always make sure your shirt is tucked into your pants. Some male judges will actually stop the proceedings when you are standing in front and make you physically tuck your shirt in. This can be very embarassing.
Don’t Speak Without Checking With Your Attorney:
If you are a defendant in a criminal case, your right to remain silent extends to the courtroom. You do not have to speak and you have the right to ask your attorney whether it is a good idea to respond, even if the judge is asking you a question. If you do start talking, most judges will cut you off and tell you to consult with your attorney before you continue speaking.
Be Respectful to the Judge and the Staff:
You may be accused of doing awful things to people, and you may be totally innocent of those acts. Despite what is being said about you, you must not respond unless you have been asked to by the judge. Interrupting the judge or responding out of turn is an easy way to earn the judge’s wrath.
This seems like an easy rule to remember, but in the heat of the moment, a lot of people forget where they are, especially when they are accused of doing something they did not do. Remember, you are on the judge’s turf. Judges are used to a certain level of respect in their courtrooms and can impose penalties for contempt of court for behavior that crosses a line.
When speaking to the judge, address him or her as “Your Honor.” Address the courtroom personnel as “sir” or “ma’am” where appropriate. When seated in the courtroom, do not lean back in your chair and put your feet up on the table.
Outbursts Can Hurt You Now and Later:
Not only can a judge hold you in contempt for interruptions and outbursts, but that behavior can also hurt you if you wish to appeal the outcome of your case. The court reporter’s record is crucial in appeals, and if the record is not clear because you were talking at the same time as the witness, prosecutor or the judge, the court reporter may not be able to keep an accurate record of what was said.
No Phones, Food, Drinks, or Children:
Judges dislike distractions. The vibrating of your smartphone, the snapping of your chewing gum, or the rattle of ice in your soda are all sounds that are sure to earn you the unwanted scorn of the judge, even if you are in the gallery. Leave your phone off and in your pocket, and leave your food and drink outside.
While it may seem harsh, many courtrooms prohibit children for many reasons. First, children can be distracting. More importantly, the subject matter can be inappropriate for a child’s ears. Finally, most courts do not have a daycare center, so there is nowhere for them to be but in the gallery while you are having your case heard. If you have to go to court, make arrangements for someone to watch your children while you are there.
Need Help Finding an Attorney?
With over 25 years of litigation and jury trial experience in local criminal cases involving misdemeanors, felonies and federal offenses, Southern California criminal attorney Karren Kenney fights for her clients to obtain the best results possible. Each client we agree to help is assigned an entire defense team to work on all aspects of their case. Our team knows the importance of developing a comprehensive and effective strategy in defending clients. Contact Kenney Legal Defense Firm for a free 30-minute phone consultation today!