What do I do in Court?
There was a time that if a man entered a court room anywhere in this country without a suit and tie on, he would have been put in jail for contempt. While that is no longer true, it is still important for anyone entering a courtroom to be properly attired and have the proper demeanor, especially if you are facing a criminal charge. The way you are dressed and the way you act in a courtroom could directly affect the sentence you receive. Real courts are not like television and you will go to jail if you act like the actors on Judge Judy.
What you wear and how you act always matters, especially when appearing in court.
When anyone has to appear in court, it is important to follow etiquette rules for the courtroom. One should always speak politely to everyone and remain calm and collected. The judge hearing your case has control in the courtroom and unless there is a jury, will make all decisions in your case. You want to appear respectful, polite, and truthful in front of a judge and/or jury. Body language and how you present yourself are just as important as what you say in court. Remember that the judge and court officers represent the law and you will need to conduct yourself accordingly. If you think your attitude or appearance doesn't matter, you should understand that either may cause you to be jailed for contempt of court.
Having Respect for the Court.
A courtroom is a solemn place, representing the judicial branch of the government, and a judge demands respect as a representative of the government, whether it is federal, state, or local. Specific rules apply to those who are bringing cases to court or who have cases brought against them. In fact, anyone appearing before the court, including witnesses and members of the public, have the responsibility to act with respect. The key word in this discussion is "respect." You must have respect for the judge as a representative of the court, and respect for the courtroom process.
Here are some general rules that most courts require you to comply with if you are in court:
When to Show Up
Be there on time. That means at least 10 minutes before your appearance time. You might have to sit and wait, but that is far better than running late. Arrive late and you might find your case passed by and a warrant issued for your arrest. Get there and listen for your name to be called and answer promptly when it is called. If you miss your name being called, they may issue a warrant with you sitting there.
What to Wear
Wear business clothing. No wild hairstyles, open shoes, tank tops, mini skirts, T shirts, or other non-business attire. If you are in doubt what to wear, dress up more rather than less. Never wear a hat!
What and Who NOT to Bring to Court
Gum chewing, tobacco, recording devices (like pda's or ipods), cell phones, food, beverages, or newspapers are NOT allowed.
Cell phones are not allowed in most courtrooms. If you are permitted to bring your cell phone, TURN IT OFF! You will be cited for contempt if you allow a cell phone to ring in the courtroom. The smart move is to leave the cell phone in the car.
Children are allowed in most courtrooms, but only if they are quiet. If you must bring your children, have someone with you who can take the child out if he or she becomes loud or disruptive. Bringing a baby in the courtroom with you before the Judge hoping that will make the judge feel sorry for you will probably cause the opposite affect. Most Judges do not like children in courtrooms and they really don’t like people who are charged with crimes bringing children.
Understand Court Etiquette (Yes, there is such a thing)
In general, you must have permission to move beyond a certain point toward the judge or jury. For example, if you are called as a witness, you will be sworn in. You may not move out of the witness box without permission. If you are sitting at the defense or prosecution table with your attorney, you may not move forward without permission.
The judge is a representative of the court and the law. He or she should be respected. The judge is to be addressed as "Your Honor," not "Judge Smith." Speak only to the judge when your told to speak. Speak to your attorney (in a soft voice) if you need to ask a question or need them to know something.
Do not speak to anyone else in the courtroon; especially the opposing counsel or other party. When referring to others, use only surnames, don’t use first names. It's "Mr. Jones," not "Jim," even if it’s is your brother.
Speak only when instructed or given permission. Don't interrupt. When you answer questions, be brief and to the point; answer the question you were asked and stop.
Do not interrupt anyone, especially not the judge. Remember, this is not televesion.
Only one person speaks at a time, because of recording devices in the courtroom and for politeness.
Do not argue, especially with the judge.
If you act angry in front of the judge and jury, your reputation will be colored by your anger. A judge or jury is less likely to rule in your favor if you do not conduct yourself respectfully.
The main thing for you to remember is that the court system will treat you the way you dress and act. If you dress appropriately for court and act the way a decent human is expected to act by showing the proper respect, you will be respected. That deon’t mean you won’t be punished for your crime, but it does mean you’ll be treated better than the person who acts the opposite way.
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