Your Day In Court: 10 Tips For Success

Posted on: 20 April 2016

Your attorney will undoubtedly use their strongest legal skills when it comes to defending you in court. While you most assuredly can count on your attorney, you also need to do your part to help ensure that your day in court is as successful as possible. You and your lawyer are a team, and input from both of you is vital to your case's outcome, so read on for some simple-to-follow tips that will give you the confidence to make your court appearance a big win.

  1. Preparation can save the day. Your attorney or another member of your legal team will likely conduct some practice sessions with you before your trial begins. You can appear more relaxed, enhance your ability to communicate well and and be ready to answer any questions more confidently with some prep time under your belt.
  2. You can do some preparation for the big day on your own, as well. Search YouTube for videos of court cases similar to your own and take a good look at the procedures and the actions of the main players, such as the lawyers for both sides, the judge and the defendant (which would be you). Try to find some that are as close to your location as possible, since trial practices vary somewhat by area.
  3. Pay attention to your attire. Your appearance is a symbol of respect to the court, so make sure that you show your awareness of the seriousness of the occasion. Men should avoid sandals, sleeveless shirts, short and hats (unless for religious reasons). Women should avoid clothing that is too revealing, such as very low-cut tops and too-short skirts. Whatever you wear, make sure it's not wrinkled, dirty or ragged.
  4. Bringing food into the courtroom is a big no-no. A bottle of water is usually OK, but not your lunch. On the same subject, avoid mints or chewing gum as well.
  5. Be aware of your non-verbal communication. Eye rolls and head shakes while sitting at the defense table may be considered "in contempt of court" and you may be fined or even jailed in some cases. Juries could be unduly influenced by your gestures, so keep a pleasant, but neutral, expression on your face.
  6. Address the judge appropriately. Local custom will apply, but normally it's "your honor", "judge", "ma'am" or "sir".
  7. Avoid at all costs approaching the judge or speaking without permission. Standing and approaching the judge's bench unbidden will likely attract the unwanted attention of the court's security officer, or bailiff.
  8. On the other hand, when questioned make sure everyone is able to hear your response. You must speak clearly and at a moderate tone of voice, since the court reporter, the recording equipment, the judge on the bench several feet away, and other parties need to hear you.
  9. When it's your turn on the witness stand, answer questions by turning your head toward the judge or the jury (if one if present), not the asking attorney. Keep your answers short and to-the-point with no elaboration.
  10. Don't allow yourself to be affected by confusing or rapid-fire questions from the plaintiff's attorney (the prosecutor). Ask for clarification when needed and take lots of deep breaths to stay calm and collected.

You may not have considered how your courtroom behavior might influence the outcome of your case, but a lack of preparedness could impact your case negatively. Talk with a criminal trial lawyer like Rosselli & Abramovitz, LLC for more information about how to behave in a courtroom.