From my experience, it definitely matters how you present yourself to the court. Your first impression to the court is your foundation to a positive outcome. The judge, jury and everyone in the courtroom will take notice of how you choose to present yourself. Your appearance and conduct show that you respect the courtroom and that you are taking the matter seriously.
Below is my advice to clients who are appearing in criminal court.
Be On Time:
Better yet, be early. Appearing in court is a stressful time, no need to add to this stress by being late. Know the location of the court you are appearing in and give yourself extra time before your scheduled court time. This will allow you to deal with things out of your control…traffic, parking, and weather. It also allows additional time to meet with your attorney before court begins.
Your attire is an important element of how the court, jury and judge view you. A court appearance is not the time or place to “make a statement.” While there is no written dress code for the courtroom, certain attire is not suitable. This includes shorts, tank tops, t-shirts, jeans and slippers to name a few. Hats should not be worn unless they are for religious or medical reason. It is best to dress as if this were a job interview. For men, a suit and tie are advisable, button-up shirt and slack is also acceptable. For women, a good suit, dress or slacks should be worn. Clothing should be clean and free of wrinkles
Your overall appearance should be clean and neat. Hair should be clean and appropriately styled. For men, a clean-shaven face or a well-kept beard is appropriate. Jewelry should be kept to a minimum, basic earrings are acceptable, additional piercings should be removed. Refrain from heavy perfume of cologne. I’ve found it beneficial to cover up tattoos as best as possible.
Smoking is not allowed in any public area of the court buildings. When court is in session, refrain from talking, chewing gum, making distracting noises or any other inappropriate conduct. Make sure your cell phone is off or on silent mode. Food and beverages are prohibited in all courtrooms. Children are not permitted in the courtroom unless they are part of the case. In a situation where you have to bring a child to court, it is best to leave the child outside the courtroom with a responsible adult.
Respecting the Judge:
The judge expects respect. When the judge enters the courtroom, everyone is expected to stand. Watch your lawyer and listen for the bailiff or clerk to announce it. When speaking to the judge, use a clear voice and make eye contact. Answer with “yes, your honor,” “no, your honor.”