How to Appear and Behave in a Criminal Justice Courtroom

When you are charged with a crime, you will need to appear in court. In most cases, you will need to appear even if you are represented by a criminal defense lawyer.  While the outcome of your case should be based on the facts and the law, how you conduct yourself in court can certainly affect your case.   Creating a good first impression for any circumstances is essential (even in a courtroom).

You have this opportunity to either make a positive or negative impression on the judge, who will be making many important decisions, including whether to suppress key evidence from your case and what your sentence will be if you are convicted. It may be difficult to imagine that how you act in court could mean the difference between probation and a jail sentence, but this is often the case. The following are some tips for how to appear and behave in a criminal justice courtroom.

Arrive Early

It is extraordinarily important to be on time to your court hearing - so important that you should always leave early to account for any unexpected situations. You will not know the order of the court docket in advance, and you do not want the judge to call your name and have you not be there. In fact, if you are not there when it is your turn, the judge could even issue a bench warrant for your arrest for failure to appear.

Dress Professionally

Courts each have their own rules about what you may not wear in the courtroom - commonly tank tops, shorts, hats, and revealing clothing. You should always go a step further, however, and dress as professionally as possible. Your clothing and grooming will be the very first impression on the judge, and there is no second chance for a first impression. Taking the time to dress professionally can indicate you are taking your court matter seriously.

Act Respectfully

Courtrooms have policies and expectations for decorum from everyone involved, including prosecutors, defense attorneys, spectators, and defendants. The following are only some examples of common rules to know in order to act respectfully as possible in criminal court:

  • Always stand when court opens, recesses, or closes
  • Stand when you are addressing the judge or the judge is addressing you
  • Always refer to the judge as “Your Honor,” and not by “Judge Smith” unless they specifically request it
  • Refer to the prosecutor, witnesses, or other people involved by their last names
  • Never interrupt or argue with the judge - you will get your turn to speak
  • Do not disrupt the courtroom with gestures or audible comments

In general, do not do anything that could be viewed as being rude or combative, as this will give the judge the wrong impression and they will surely remember such demeanor when it comes time to make decisions regarding your case.

Be Prepared

When you go to court, you should understand why you are there, the nature of the charges against you, and other details of your case. If you have a defense attorney, they will usually do the talking for you, though they should also prepare you for what to expect during the hearing, when to arrive, how to dress, and how to act. This is only one of many benefits of having the right defense representation for your criminal case.

Your criminal lawyer representing you will also give you tips on how to properly present yourself in court.  If you have any questions regarding criminal please visit for more information.

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