For many people, having to go to court for jury duty is a very unpleasant experience. However, for a criminal defendant, it is even worse due to the potential negative consequences of a possible conviction. Because courtrooms can be both intimidating and nerve racking due to their power and seriousness, many people are confused and unprepared for their day in court, either as a member of the jury or as a defendant, and often ask us “How should I behave in court?” As you begin the court process, you should be informed on how to behave in a courtroom in order to be prepared for your court appearance (see our 11 Tips for Your First Court Appearance).
Behavior and Manners: How Should I Behave In Court?
Courtrooms are generally kept very formal and structured by the judges and by their bailiffs. This seriousness is upheld and continued in order to maintain order and respect for the serious and grave matters brought before the court. Because of this gravity, it is important to be on your best behavior and to display appropriate manners while in the courtroom (see blog on Can You Wear Jeans to Court).
Although it can be personally and/or emotionally upsetting to be present in court as a defendant for a potential criminal conviction, being rude or disrespectful will not help your case at all, and may even land you in further trouble if your disrespect angers or offends the judge or the bailiffs. Given that this is the case, you should make sure to be extra polite and use words like “please” and “thank you” when addressing any person in the courtroom, regardless of role, status, or position (the judge, any bailiffs, any and all jury members, the defendant, both prosecuting and defense attorneys, potentially the public defender, and the like).
Talking To the Judge
Although only the lawyers and the prosecutors in the courtroom are typically the people who interact with a judge, in certain situations you may be required to address the judge. Because a judge holds a large amount of power in the courtroom, there are special rules and customs that are required when talking to a judge, regardless of your role in the courtroom:
- When talking to a judge, call the judge “Your Honor,” never “Sir” or “Ma’am”;
- Always stand when speaking to the judge;
- Use proper English and do not use slang or curse words;
- Speak clearly and loud enough for the judge to hear you;
- Only speak when spoken to; and
- Never let your emotions get the best of you or display any signs of emotion that may hurt your case (laughing, smirking, anger, etc.);
Talking To Other People
Generally, it is a smart plan to refrain from talking to anyone else in the courthouse besides your attorney, your immediate family, or someone who has directly addressed you (judge, prosecutor, bailiff, and the like). By doing this, you can help to avoid any potential problems that may arise from these actions, like violating court rules or disclosing potentially privileged information that could be overheard by another party and potentially used against you in your case.
Check out our infographic with all these helpful tips about how you should behave in court!
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If you have been charged with a crime, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help zealously defend your case. Contact us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation on your case.