You can’t control everything that happens during your court case. You can’t control how the opposition handles the case or what the judge or jury decides. However, you can control your own behavior.
Good behavior in the courtroom sends the message that you are a responsible, trustworthy person. Making a good impression can influence how you’re treated in the courtroom and can even affect the outcome the judge or jury reaches.
Here are a few steps you can take to put your best foot forward during your trial.
1. Dress Professionally
When you watch someone give an important presentation or speech, you don’t expect the speaker to come unshaven, wearing a dirty shirt and ripped jeans. Dressing this way would make it seem like the speaker doesn’t care much about the speech or the topic.
The same scenario applies in the courtroom. Underdressing gives the impression that you don’t have respect for the judge and don’t take the situation seriously. Arriving clean and clean shaven (for men) can help you look more professional. It’s also a good idea to cover tattoos and remove jewelry that showcase body piercings for your court appearance.
On the other hand, overdressing can give the impression that you’re trying to be someone you’re not. There’s no need to wear a tuxedo or an evening gown. Women should wear professional clothing, such as a long skirt or dress pants. Men should wear dress pants with a nice shirt. Wearing a tie can be a nice touch too.
2. Keep Your Emotions in Check
It’s natural that you’re going to feel some strong emotions during the court proceedings. You might even hear someone say something about you that is misleading or untrue. Reacting calmly in a highly charged situation can help you make a good impression, and reacting out of anger can hurt your case.
Before your trial, practice calming yourself down rather than immediately becoming defensive. Breathe deeply and count to ten in your head before responding to someone who seems hostile.
During the court proceedings, keep a neutral facial expression as much as possible. Looking angry can make you seem hostile and dangerous. Even smiling too much isn’t a good idea; it can create the impression that you don’t take the situation seriously.
You can also remain professional as you answer questions in a straightforward, non-emotional manner. Speak loudly enough to be heard but no louder than that. Stay in one place as you speak, and don’t point or gesture at the opposing party.
3. Show Respect for the Judge
Remember, the judge is the person who has the power to decide your fate. He or she is more likely to give you a good outcome if you show respect. Treat the judge how you would treat someone you admire, such as a favorite supervisor, mentor, or teacher.
You can show respect by speaking with a polite, courteous tone of voice and answering the judge’s questions with, “Yes, Your Honor” or “No, Your Honor.”
Look at the judge in the eyes as you speak. Don’t roll your eyes, look away, or perform other actions that demonstrate disrespect and defiance.
4. Show Respect for Others
Along with showing respect to the judge, you should also show respect for others in the courtroom. This includes all legal personnel such as clerks and court officers. It even includes the opposing party.
Avoid arguing with the opposing party. Arguing will not convince the judge and jury to take your side. It also makes it appear that you don’t have control over your own emotions and actions, an impression that may make you look guilty. Plus, what you say in the heat of the moment can actually be used against you.
If someone says something you don’t like, don’t interrupt or shake your head. You’ll have the opportunity to defend yourself at the right time. If it’s your turn to speak, and you don’t agree with a statement, you can say something like “I respectfully disagree.”
5. Be Honest
In order to prove that you’re not guilty, you might be tempted to lie or stretch the truth. While interviewing witnesses and other parties, the prosecution can untangle a web of lies. Answering untruthfully does not help you obtain a good outcome to your trial.
Work with your lawyer to prepare your argument before you even enter the courtroom. That way, you can present an argument that’s both convincing and honest. Preparing for your argument also sends the impression that you are a responsible, conscientious person.
If you have further questions about courtroom behavior, talk with a criminal-defense lawyer. He or she can help prepare you for your case so you can obtain the best outcome.
Put your criminal case in experienced hands. Get a free consultation by calling Mesenbourg & Sarratori Law Offices.