10 Tips For A Successful Courtroom Appearance

If you are involved in a criminal proceeding with a courtroom appearance upcoming, you may be nervous and puzzled about how to conduct yourself. While your criminal defense attorney is the best person to go to for guidance, the tips below will get you ready for your appearance and supplement your attorney's advice.

  1. Familiarize yourself with court procedures. You can find and watch videos of cases similar to your own case, as well as watch educational videos of basic courtroom procedures to give you an idea of what to expect in court.
  2. Address the judge correctly. The proper form of address is "judge", "your honor", "sir" or "ma'am". Your attorney may know the exact form that a particular judge prefers.
  3. Be respectful, no matter what. Attorneys for the state or the opposing party may attempt to evoke an emotional, and possibly imprudent response from you. Keep cool and be polite.
  4. Speak clearly and at a moderate volume. Do not use slang or mumble. Use the proper form of "yes" or "no"; not "yeah" or "nope".
  5. Do not chew gum, mints or anything else. A bottle of water is usually permitted.
  6. Do not roll your eyes, or make other faces, whether you are on the stand or not. The judge could actually find you in contempt of court for such antics.
  7. Dress appropriately. Wear your nicest clothes, and ensure that they are clean and pressed. Do not wear shorts, sandals (for men), revealing clothing, any headwear (unless religious). Also, there should be no sunglasses on your face or on your head.
  8. Answer only what was asked and address your answers to the judge. You may be tempted to look at the attorney who is asking, but turn to face the judge to give your answer. If there is a jury present, look directly at them, preferably picking out one or two specific members, when answering the question.
  9. Know and practice the answers to potential questions. Your attorney will prep you for answering his questions, and he should have some good predictions of the other side's questions.
  10. Never speak to or approach the judge without permission. Likewise, only leave when dismissed.

If you follow the above 10 rules for proper courtroom conduct, you will be paving the way for a successful appearance and help prevent a disastrous outcome for your case. Your criminal defense attorney should also be able to help prepare you for your appearance with his specialized knowledge of local court procedures, and perhaps personal knowledge of the judge. Together with careful preparation and a knowledgeable attorney, your day in court will have a successful outcome.