Court's In Session: How To Behave In Court

No matter what circumstances brought you to court, you can count on your attorney to defend you to the utmost. You can, however, have a positive influence on your case by knowing and practicing proper courtroom behavior. Read on for some fast and simple rules to follow for your day, or days, in court.

1. Knowing what to expect can not only reduce your anxiety level, but it might help you avoid embarrassing blunders in open court. You should be able to find a wide variety of actual court cases, preferably similar to your own, on video. Pay attention to the major players, such as the defendant (you), the attorneys for both sides, the judge, and the jury. These videos should give a good idea of how a trial flows, including the inevitable delays.

2. In addition to your homework, your legal team will also work with you to help you be prepared, particularly when it comes to giving testimony on the witness stand. Don't be surprised if you find yourself in a mock trial with your legal team via a question and answer session. This practice is vital to ensure that you understand exactly how to answer questions.

3. Appearances matter in court, so be in your best clothing for the trial. Sloppy, wrinkled, and dirty clothing shows disrespect for the court and leaves other participants with a negative impression of you. Men should avoid sandals, sleeveless shirts, shorts, or headgear (religious headwear being the exception). Women should avoid revealing clothing (low-cut tops and too-short skirts), leggings-as-pants, and the sunglasses-on-the-head look (may be interpreted to be headwear in some courts). Everyone should avoid vulgar tee shirts.

4. Leave your lunch in your bag; eating in court is a big "no-no". A bottle of water may be okay, however. On that subject, even though chewing gum may help you feel less nervous, leave it off. It looks, and sounds, worse than you may imagine.

5. Never approach the judge without permission, or you may find yourself on the wrong side of the court security officer. Look to the judge for commands to approach the bench, approach the witness stand, leave the stand, or to stand at all.

6. Local custom prevails, but usually judges like to be addressed as "your honor", "judge", "sir", or "ma'am".

7. Remember when you are giving testimony that you are addressing the judge or jury, not the attorney asking the questions. Turn your head in the appropriate direction and meet the eyes of the judge or a few people on the jury when answering questions. Speak clearly at all times to allow the court reporter to record your words.

Speak with a criminal defense attorney at a law firm like Abom & Kutulakis LLP for more information about how to behave in court.