A trial is a serious event, especially if the hearing is one of a criminal nature. A criminal defense attorney knows there is much more involved in criminal proceedings than simply stating that a client is innocent. Attorneys and clients must look and behave both professionally and respectfully while in the courtroom. Improper behavior during a trial can hurt a defendant’s case; it is essential for all parties involved in a criminal trial to understand what type of behavior is allowed in the courtroom.
Courtroom Behavior – Dress for Success
Appearance in the courtroom is critical. Regardless of what a person does for a living or what their normal attire may be, it is imperative for a defendant to be appropriately dressed when appearing before the judge. This means dressing as if one were going to a job interview or a corporate meeting. The style of clothing should be up-to-date yet conservative; accessories should include items such as ties and belts for men or scarves and coordinated jewelry for women. Proper shoes should also be worn. In addition, it is highly recommended by a criminal defense attorney that this dress code be extended to anyone attending the hearing with the defendant and counsel.
Courtroom Behavior – Proper Speech
To compliment professional attire, it is also essential that a defendant behave in a professional manner. This is especially true when speaking to the judge or anyone else in the courtroom. The proper way to address a judge is to stand when speaking; the judge should be addressed as “Your Honor;” anything else could be viewed as disrespectful. A defendant should only speak in reply to direct questions and as instructed by their criminal defense attorney, who will explain in advance when the defendant will be asked to speak.
Politeness is critical so that both judge and jury can observe appropriate and respectful behavior on the part of the defendant. Courteous behavior in the courtroom is more impressive than any other type of behavior – even if other court participants do not act in this fashion. Arrogance or rudeness has no place in the courtroom and could cause a defendant to be sanctioned by the court.
Courtroom Behavior – General Issues
Courtesy is something that is expected at all times during a trial and should be displayed both inside and outside the courtroom. Such behavior includes interaction with attorneys, court staff, or anyone else the defendant may encounter during a trial. Being attentive when spoken to, saying “please” or “thank you” when appropriate, and not interrupting others who are speaking can help create a positive impression. This is something every defendant can do in order to get the court’s full attention when their case is being heard.
Anyone on trial or present in the courtroom must understand that it can be detrimental to a case to discuss it while court is in session or even in the court building itself. A criminal defense attorney instructs clients on when and where they can speak about their case. It is crucial that nothing be discussed in court, even discreetly, that could be overheard. Maintaining the privacy of case details is essential in order for the defense attorney to present the best possible strategy for their client.
A courtroom, including judge, jury, court staff, and a criminal defense attorney is a place that demands the utmost respect from those who are on trial. Along with the testimony and evidence presented in the courtroom, a defendant can further help their case by displaying the proper behavior, which acknowledges understanding the importance of their trial. Displaying best courtroom behavior might not win a case on its own; however, it can do a lot more for the defendant and their legal team than any other conduct or attitude.
Reynaldo G. Garza, III
680 E. St Charles, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520