What Is Proper Court Etiquette?

By David Hammond

Watching courtroom dramas on TV is not exactly an accurate portrayal of what going through the criminal justice system may look like. While there may be some truth in these representations, it is still important to separate reality from TV dramatics. If you are going to court, whether it be as a defendant, witness, audience, or juror, you should be prepared to comply with proper court etiquette or you can land yourself in some trouble.

What Is Proper Court Etiquette?

First and foremost, you need to be prepared to show respect for the judge and his or her courtroom. This is accomplished in a few different ways. For instance, showing respect can be accomplished through the way you dress and present yourself in court. Dress conservatively and as professionally as possible. Avoid jeans. Hats and sunglasses should be removed prior to entering the courtroom, otherwise, you will likely be instructed to do so when you enter.

Your behavior should also reflect a respect for the judge and the courtroom. Being in court can be intimidating. This can be even more true when you are not quite sure what to expect. Listen to the judge as they are charged with running the courtroom and keeping order. Failure to comply with a judge’s directions can easily result in you being held in contempt and/or being escorted from the courtroom by the bailiff. If you are addressing the judge, address him or her as “your honor.” Speak to the judge in a way that reflects the fact that you respect the position of authority. Answer clearly and directly. Avoid gestures that may be taken as disrespectful, such as rolling your eyes.

There are other things you will be expected to do in order to show respect for the judge and the ultimate authority the judge holds in the courtroom. For instance, you will need to stand when the judge enters the courtroom. You should wait until the judge takes his or her seat before you should be seated.

Other rules of courtroom etiquette include being on time. In fact, you should be early. Additionally, when you are in the courtroom, things may get heated at times. If you are put on the witness stand, you may become upset at some point. You should make every possible attempt to remain calm. Do not yell. Also, only the person testifying should be speaking in the courtroom. So, if you are not on the witness stand or are simply seated in the gallery, refrain from talking.

While some may view these rules as archaic, or overly conservative and restrictive, they reflect a type of order that acts as a pillar of the justice system. Respect the system and the authority within the system and things will proceed much more smoothly.  Even if you don’t agree with why you are in court in the first place, failing to act appropriately in court can only hurt your cause.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

Proper etiquette in every situation helps make a good first impression. This holds true in the courtroom setting as well. How you act, how you dress, and how you appear in court can have far-reaching consequences on important matters such as the outcome of your case. At CDH Law, we are here to discuss all aspects of your case in order to mount the most rigorous criminal defense possible. Contact us today.

About the Author
David is a former military prosecutor and defense lawyer with over a decade of experience fighting for service members and their families. He served nine years and two combat tours as an active duty US Army officer, then joined the Reserves and settled down in Syracuse to be near family. Now representing people across Central New York charged with serious felonies, misdemeanors, DWIs, and traffic offenses, he puts the same level of commitment into his civilian law practice. If you have any questions regarding this article, you can contact David here.