The time leading up to your first courtroom appearance can be anxiety-inducing. It’s normal for the case to weigh on your mind and to feel nervous, but it’s important to remain composed, as making a mistake in court, whether purposeful or not, could affect the outcome of your case. To give you the confidence you need on your court date, here are some do’s and don’ts of courtroom behavior.
Do: Dress Appropriately in Court
Just like outside the courtroom, first impressions are meaningful and can help, or hurt, your cause. Clothing should be neat and clean, reflecting your seriousness about the matter at hand. To ensure the judge and jury are paying attention to your testimony and not your look, avoid clothing or accessories which draw attention to them rather than you, and minimize visible tattoos and piercings.
While it’s important to look professional, the last thing you want to worry about during a hearing is the clothes you’re wearing. Make sure your clothing is appropriate, yet comfortable enough to not add to an already nerve-wracking experience. Avoid wearing jeans. Shorts and hats are often not allowed. While most people dress formally for court, business casual is acceptable as well.
Don’t: Be Late to Court
If you’re not in the courtroom when your case is called, your case could be immediately dismissed and you may lose then and there. To avoid this, arrive with plenty of time to spare and ask the clerk where your hearing is. Keep in mind that most courthouses have metal detectors and other security measures in place that can take a while to get through.
When you arrive at the appropriate courtroom, wait for an appropriate moment and, without being disruptive, go inside to wait for your case to be called. If you’re early, you’ll be in the courtroom when your case is called and your case won’t be immediately dismissed.
Do: Act Respectfully in Court
When it comes to courtroom etiquette, respect is everything. The seriousness of the matter at hand warrants your undivided attention. Carefully listen to everything that’s being said during the hearing and never interrupt. When you are asked to speak, enunciate, speak loudly and refer to the judge as “Your Honor.” When it’s not your time to speak, you should not socialize, but may speak quietly about your case to your lawyer, friends or family in your immediate vicinity.
Phone usage is an act of disrespect that can easily be avoided. Before entering the courtroom, make sure to turn your phone off to avoid any possibility of it ringing or temptation to use it.
Acting disrespectfully in front of a judge is unacceptable behavior and can quickly result in additional charges such as contempt of court.
Do: Tell the Truth in Court
Just like in TV and movies, when you are called to the stand during a hearing you will be “sworn in” with the phrase, “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” Your answer to this should always be, “I do.” You must abide by this oath under all circumstances. If you’re found to have lied under oath you can be convicted of perjury, a serious offense that could result in jail time.
Don’t: Wear your Heart on your Sleeve in the Courtroom
The results of a court hearing can have huge effects on all parties' lives going forward. However, whether the hearing is going well or poorly, you should never make exaggerated facial expressions, mouth words or make celebratory or disappointed gestures. Non-verbal communication doesn’t go unnoticed in the courtroom and while these acts can’t help your case, they can hurt it.
Do: Consult a Lawyer
For over 100 years, Everson Law has represented clients in courtrooms throughout Wisconsin. Our team of legal professionals will make sure you’re as prepared as possible when you walk into the courtroom. Contact Everson Law today to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced attorneys.