Showing up to court is only half the battle. How you prepare for court and how you represent yourself in court will very often carry weight with the Judge and Prosecutor. Although only the evidence in a case should matter, your appearance is an outward reflection of your inward character. Fair or not, appearances matter in court. Please follow these simple steps to ensure your appearance and behaviors do not negatively affect your case in court.
- Dress Appropriately: (although a bit overbroad): If you could wear it to a professional job interview, you can wear it to court.
- Look put together: Someone that looks like they cared while dressing themselves for their court appearance will in many instances be given more respect.
- Dress Modestly: Ladies should wear dress pants or a dress with an appropriate length. Enough Said.
- Denim is out of the question: Cutoff denim, jeans, shorts – Just do not do it.
- T-Shirts with offensive words are unacceptable: If your mother would tell you not to wear it, then head her advice.
- Dress to the best of your abilities: I was in court once where I noticed a young man who was dressed in a pair of khakis with a plain white t-shirt (the kind that comes in the pack of threes by Hanes) with a clip on tie. His T-shirt was tucked into his khaki pants, and he was wearing a belt. Is this what I suggest you wear to court? No, but it was obvious this was all this man had, and this was all he could afford. This man clearly did his best to respect the court and the judge. Even though he did not have a button down shirt or a suit to wear, he did the best he was able to do, and it went a long way with the judge.
- Show Up Early: An old coach of mine use to tell me, "if you show up early, you are on time. If you show up on time, you are late. If you come late, you run laps." Even though you will not be sanctioned with running laps, showing up late to court can have detrimental effects on your case. It can cause a prosecutor or judge to lose respect for you. Even worse, the judge may issue a bench warrant for your arrest if you are not present when the court calls your case. Showing up early shows the court that you respect their time and respect courtroom staff.
- Ditch the Gum: You would not chew gum during a job interview, do not chew gum in court. Many times, a judge will instruct you to spit your gum out. Do not be that person.
- Add "Your Honor" to Your Vocabulary: When you address the Judge, it is important to be respectful. Use “yes your honor” and “no your honor” when addressing the Judge. They are elected officials that have worked hard for their titles. Using this simple vocabulary will go a long way in court.
- Do Not Pass the Bar: The "Bar" is the area in court that separates the seating for the public and the area where attorneys congregate. Until your case is called before the Judge, remain in the public seating area behind the bar. This rule exists out of respect for the prosecutor and the Judge and also for the safety of the court. Many officers will escort you back to your seat if you pass the bar of the courtroom without being called forward.
- Wait your Turn: No one wants to sit in a courtroom several hours before his or her case is heard. However, there will be a first, and a last case heard. Give others the respect you would want when your case is called. Acting out in court can only make your situation worse.
The Truth About Courtroom Respect:
The advice in this article applies to any court, anywhere in the United States. Our focus is Georgia DUI Defense. In a perfect world, what we wear and how we act should not have any bearing on the conclusion of a legal case. It is unreasonable to expect prosecutors and judges to avoid judging people based on their appearance. They will be making judgments about your physical appearance and how you carry yourself in the court when determining the outcome of your case. Do not let something completely avoidable, such as what you wear and how you act, to negatively affect your case. Plain and simple, dress and act respectively when entering the courthouse.