How to Behave in Court

Three Parts:Preparing for A Court AppearanceBehaving In CourtAddressing the Court

When you have to appear in court, it is important to follow several rules of courtroom etiquette. You should always speak politely to everyone and remain calm and collected. The judge hearing your case has control in the courtroom and may make all decisions in your case. You want to appear polite, respectful, and truthful in front of a jury. Body language and how you present yourself are just as important as what you say in court. Remember that the judge and court officers represent the law and you will need to conduct yourself accordingly.

Part 1
Preparing for A Court Appearance

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    Dress appropriately for your court appearance. You will want to dress conservatively. [1]
    • Dressing professionally and conservatively is a sign of respect for the judge and the court.
    • Acting respectfully is very important for courtroom conduct.
    • Men should wear a suit or dress slacks and a dress shirt.
    • Women should wear a conservative dress, business suit, or dress pants and a dress shirt.
    • Flip flops, excessively high heels, and sneakers shouldn't be worn to a trial.
    • Avoid wearing loud bright colors or all black.
    • Wear only necessary jewelry such as a wedding ring or watch. Don't wear heavy bracelets, earrings, or necklaces.
    • Avoid any clothing that is revealing or that has any explicit language or images on it.
    • Cover any visible tattoos.
    • Sunglasses and hats must be removed before entering the courtroom.
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    Let your friends know about any courtroom rules. If you are going to have friends and family present in court, they will need to know how to conduct themselves. [2]
    • Any guests in the courtroom should plan to arrive on time for the hearing.
    • Cell phone use is prohibited in the courtroom.
    • Guests should not eat, drink, or chew gum in the courtroom.
    • Children are permitted in most courtrooms, but they will need to be quiet and respectful of the trial. Children who are disruptive may be removed from the courtroom.
    • All conversations should take place outside of the courtroom.
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    Know what time your hearing is and arrive early. You will want to arrive early and wait outside the courtroom to be called. [3]
    • Contact the court ahead of time if you aren't aware of what time you need to be there.
    • Plan to allow extra time to find parking or to get public transportation.
    • When you get to the courthouse, ask courthouse staff where you should wait.
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    Be prepared to go through security. Most court buildings have a security checkpoint. [4]
    • You may need to go through a metal detector. Make sure you can remove all metal objects from your clothing.
    • Do not bring weapons with you into the courthouse. These items are banned.
    • Avoid bringing drugs and tobacco products with you. Illegal drugs should never be brought to a courthouse.
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    Treat everyone you encounter with respect. Remember to make eye contact with people you speak to.[5]
    • Always say "Thank You" to anyone who gives you any directions or provides a service.
    • You never know who you might encounter outside of the courtroom. The person in line in security or in the elevator might be a judge, lawyer, or jury member.
    • Maintain a neat and tidy appearance during your entire time in the courthouse. Don't remove your tie or suit jacket.
    • Only drink, eat, and smoke in designated areas.

Part 2
Behaving In Court

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    Listen to any instructions given by the bailiff or court attendant. These staff members will direct you on where to wait for your hearing and where to sit during your hearing.[6]
    • Ask the court staff or bailiff how the judge likes to be addressed. Some judges may prefer "Your Honor" or another title.
    • Arrive early and ask the court attendant where to sit.
    • Heed any advice the bailiff or court staff give you.
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    Wait quietly during the hearing until you are directed to speak. Do not have any side conversations or let your attention wander. [7]
    • Sit up straight and pay attention to the proceedings.
    • You won't know what is going on if you aren't paying attention.
    • Don't chew gum, drink, or eat during the hearing.
    • Turn off your cell phone during the proceedings. Most courts have a ban on cell phone use.
    • It is incredibly important that you remain as quiet as possible during the proceedings as most court hearings are electronically recorded.
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    Be aware of your body language during the hearing. You don't want to appear disrespectful during the hearing.[8]
    • Don't roll your eyes or frown in response to others during the hearing.
    • Don't move your hands and feet during the proceedings. Resist the urge to fidget in your seat.
    • Maintain your attention to the proceedings. Make eye contact with those who are speaking to show you are listening.

Part 3
Addressing the Court

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    Do not speak unless directed to. It is poor courtroom conduct to interrupt anyone who is speaking.[9]
    • Judges will not put up with anyone who is interrupting them or other people in the courtroom.
    • A judge can remove you from the courtroom if you are becoming a distraction.
    • Interruptions in the court proceedings cause unnecessary confusion during a hearing.
    • Keep in mind that your body language can also be a distraction to others so remain collected and still during the hearing.
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    Stand up when it is your turn to speak. This is standard courtroom protocol.[10]
    • You should always stand when addressing the judge or court, unless directed otherwise.
    • You may be asked to sit in a witness stand during questioning.
    • Speak loudly and clearly in a polite tone when talking to the judge.
    • When you are done speaking, briefly thank the judge for her attention.
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    Address the judge appropriately. The judge is a representative of the court and the law. He or she should be respected.[11]
    • Some judges may have a special title they prefer to use.
    • Ask the bailiff or court attendant before the hearing what the judge prefers to be called.
    • When in doubt, address the judge as "Your Honor" until directed otherwise.
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    Answer questions clearly and carefully. Always answer each question truthfully and to the best of your ability. Lying on the stand is perjury and may result in legal charges if discovered.[12]
    • There is no reason for you to rush to answer each question. It is alright to pause and think for a few seconds before answering.
    • If you don't understand a question, ask for clarification.
    • Answer questions in a clear, loud voice.
    • Maintain eye contact with the judge or members of the court when they are speaking to you. This shows you are paying attention.
    • Don't respond to a question unless you are ready. Some attorneys may try to pressure you into answering quickly, but don't answer a question unless you are sure you understand.
    • Rapid questioning can lead to confusion and inaccuracy in court proceedings.
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    Speak in a respectful tone of voice, use polite language, and be aware of your body language. You want to convey respect at all times.[13]
    • Don't use too much non-verbal communication during questioning. Don't use gestures such as waving your hands or pointing during the proceedings.
    • Don't criticize anyone in the courtroom, even if you are emotional. You should especially avoid criticizing the judge and court attendants.
    • Do not use derogatory language or curse words in the courtroom.
    • Keep your body language neutral.
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    Remain calm and collected during the hearing. Getting angry will make you look rash and untrustworthy in the eyes of the court.[14]
    • You can ask the judge to call a brief recess if you find yourself getting angry. Use this time to regain your composure.
    • Most judges would rather you take a few minutes to collect yourself rather than cause a disturbance in the courtroom.
    • A judge can hold you in contempt of court for causing a disturbance in the courtroom, shouting, using aggressive verbal language or body language, or other disrespectful actions.
    • If you act angry in front of the judge and jury, your reputation will be colored by your anger. A judge or jury is less likely to rule in your favor if you do not conduct yourself respectfully.

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Categories: Etiquette | Legal Matters