Proper Courtroom Etiquette

When you’re a criminal defendant, it’s absolutely critical that you make a good impression when you attend your court hearings. Good etiquette is the key to leaving a positive impression on the judge, the jury, and the prosecutor.

Criminal defense attorneys, defendants, witnesses, and jurors all must observe courteous behavior in court. Essentially, the basic courtroom etiquette rules require that everyone is polite to the judge, the courtroom staff, and opposing counsel, and that they dress nicely – as if they are attending a job interview or going to church.

Criminal defendants should address the judge with “your honor” and when they respond with a “yes” or “no” to a question, their response should always follow with “sir” or ma’am.”

Many of the courtroom etiquette mistakes involve talking over the judge, shouting obscenities, making threats, using profane language, not responding to the judge, dressing inappropriately, and having a cellphone ring in court.

We always tell our clients to be honest when asked a question, to be early, and to wear nice clothes. For example, we ask men to wear a suite or a nice collared shirt and to tuck it in, and for women, a conservative dress or skirt and blouse – an outfit that is not revealing.

It may seem insignificant, but being on one’s best behavior and following proper courtroom etiquette goes a long way. In fact, good manners in court can make or break some cases.

Judges Can Be Very Intimidating

We know, going to court can feel a lot like going to the principal’s office – it can be very intimidating. Defendants must not forget that criminal court proceedings are very serious and if you rub the judge the wrong way, you’re giving him or her the opportunity to level the heavy hand of justice upon you.

The rules of standard courtroom etiquette:

  • Wear clothing that would be appropriate for a job interview at a bank or a law firm
  • Get a haircut (if needed) and make sure your hair looks nice
  • For the ladies, wear makeup with natural colors
  • Arrive a few minutes early
  • Before you enter the courtroom, turn off your cellphone
  • Be polite to everyone, including the judge, courtroom staff, and prosecutor
  • When the judge enters or leaves the courtroom, stand up
  • Stand while speaking to the judge
  • Do not interrupt the judge, the prosecutor, or your defense attorney while they are talking
  • Always refer to the judge as “your honor”
  • If you have a question or concern, direct it to the bench, not the prosecutor
  • When you speak, make sure you’re clear so the judge can hear you
  • NEVER interrupt the judge
  • If the judge interrupts you, stop talking immediately
  • Only speak when it’s your turn

If you are facing criminal charges in Orange County, we want to ensure that you have the best chances of achieving a favorable outcome, and it all begins with leaving a good impression in court.

To learn more about model courtroom behavior, contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. to schedule a free consultation with one of our criminal defense attorneys.

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Law Offices of Virginia Landry, Inc. - Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer
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