Whether you’re entering the courtroom for a civil case, criminal case, or custody hearing, the situation will always be stressful. How you control that stress is more important than most people realize. Your behavior in the courtroom can –and will — affect your case.
As I’ve said before, attorneys, judges, and jurors alike spend time reading your body language alongside any testimony you give. In many ways, your body language will speak louder than your words. No matter how stressed you are feeling, you cannot let that manifest in your behavior, because the way you act impacts the impression you leave on others.
A basic guideline to help maintain your behavior in court is remembering to use basic common courtesy. Proper court attire is also as much a part of your behavior, as the way you speak or act. Make sure what you wear is appropriate. Follow business causal or business professional guidelines, and keep the colors muted.
The way you speak is also a reflection of your behavior. Specific to a courtroom, is remembering not to speak unless you are addressed directly. There is a detailed order in which people can speak, and disrupting that would reflect badly on you. You should also take care to insure your emotions do not dictate what you say. If you let your emotions take control, you may forget to say something important, or your emotional response will be more recognized than the facts you are trying to convey. Remember to use appropriate, clear language, and most importantly, speak respectfully, to everyone involved. It will showcase your good character, and insure that the proceedings go smoothly.
Some other general guidelines: do not have any food, gum, mints, or drinks in the courtroom. Focusing on that makes you look disrespectful. Despite the fact that this should go without saying, make sure your cell phone is OFF. Better yet, leave it at home or in the car. Silent mode doesn’t work. If it vibrates, everyone will be able to hear it, and it is extremely disruptive.
Since emotions are generally high in a courtroom (even though you will be doing your best to hide that), you’ll want to have a friend you trust go with you and take personal notes. Not only will this serve as a good record of occurrences, but it will also show that you care what is going on.
Pay attention to your posture, don’t slouch or let your head droop. I know the formalities of court can be a little boring, but you do not want to look bored or disengaged; it leaves a bad impression. You should look interested and pay attention, because what is being said should matter to you.
Aside from your behavior affecting the outcome of your case, there are criminal consequences for not keeping yourself in check. For example, a father, frustrated with the courts involved in a custody case, cussed when referring to the judge, and wrote a rather threatening song which he posted online. The man, a army veteran, obviously did not win his custody case, but was instead held in contempt of court, put in prison for 4 months, and had to pay a large fine.
Clearly, your behavior in the courtroom plays a key role in the way a hearing precedes. Negative behavior will certainly leave an unwanted impression on anyone in the courtroom with you. Here at the Coye Law Firm, we help our clients prepare for a trial or hearing by coaching them on dealing with the stresses of court. If you or a loved one needs assistance with a legal issue, contact us for a consultation.