If you are going to court for criminal charges of any kind, you are undergoing considerable stress and probably have not given much thought to courtroom etiquette. The fact is, however, that courtrooms cultivate serious environments that require decorum. All things being equal, being on the right side of courtroom etiquette can tip the balance in your favor. Understanding courtroom etiquette will allow you to move ahead with greater confidence in your ability to face your charges with dignity and to bring your strongest defense.
Courtroom Etiquette: Why It Is Important
Etiquette refers to the kinds of behaviors that are appropriate in any given situation, and the courtroom has its own distinct brand of necessary etiquette. The fact is that the judge, the prosecuting attorney, and the jury in your case will all be carefully scrutinizing you in court. Knowing and adhering to appropriate courtroom etiquette allows you to put your best foot forward.
Be on Time
The first order of business is arriving at court on time. Courts run on extremely tight schedules, and when a defendant is late, it holds everyone up. No one appreciates tardiness – least of all judges whose workloads are considerable. Being on time is not just about making it through the courthouse doors at the designated hour but is also about arriving at your designated courtroom on time and being well prepared to proceed.
Do whatever you need to do to ensure that you arrive at your court appearance on time, including:
- Set multiple alarms
- Enlist a friend to call you and make sure that you are up and ready to go the morning of your appearance
- Make sure that your car is gassed up ahead of time and that you are well acquainted with the route you will be taking and where you will be parking (or make adequate alternate travel plans)
- Allow yourself a time buffer by planning on arriving at least 30 minutes before you are scheduled to appear
Dress the Part
What you wear to court reflects more than you realize. In fact, it is your opportunity to show your respect for the court and for the legal process. Further, it allows you to demonstrate that you take the process extremely seriously. Dress the way you would for a formal church service or an important job interview and err on the conservative side.
Ultimately, you want to be respectful, polite, and courteous throughout your court appearance. This includes adhering to rules of common courtesy, including:
- Turning off your smartphone
- Refraining from gum chewing
- Speaking only when required to do so and controlling your emotions in the process
- Obeying the commands directed at you
- Refraining from profanity and arguments