What is Proper Courtroom Behavior?

In all aspects of life, there is proper and improper etiquette. For example, when people attend church services, they are expected to dress nicely – usually a suit and tie for men and a dress or skirt and blouse for women.

On the beach, a suit and tie would be inappropriate, but a bathing suit and sandals would be proper attire in that setting.

If you’re going to a fancy restaurant, again, you dress nicely. You probably wouldn’t be allowed to dine at the restaurant if you were wearing shorts and a tank top. When someone applies for an accounting job, they’d be expected to be dressed up, but if they were going to a barbeque at a park, jeans and a shirt or something else casual would suffice.

When you go to court, it’s the same thing. Not only are you expected to dress a certain way, but you are expected to act a certain way. As all criminal defense attorneys can attest, a fresh haircut, a nice suit, and a respectful attitude can go a long way when you’re standing before a judge.

In contrast, baggy jeans, a foul mouth, and a ringing cellphone can create a bad impression on the judge and set a defendant off on the wrong foot from the beginning – the opposite of what defendants need and want!

How should you dress and act in court?

At Crisp and Associates, LLC, we want our clients to have the best possible chances of a successful outcome and it all begins in court. Regardless of what you’ve been told, first impressions count!

Whenever a client is appearing in court, we explain the importance of showing up on time, dressing nicely, and being on their absolute best behavior. When a client fails in any one of these areas, it can be detrimental to their case.

Why? Because, when a criminal defendant offends the judge or shows disrespect for their courtroom, the judge is less inclined to show the defendant leniency. It’s that simple.

Proper courtroom etiquette:

  • Dress in your “Sunday Best”
  • If you need a haircut, get one
  • Arrive to court early
  • Please leave your children at home
  • Shut off your cellphone before entering the courtroom
  • Do not chew gum in the courtroom
  • Do not even think of texting while in court
  • Stand whenever the judge enters or exits the courtroom
  • Treat the judge, the prosecutor, your defense attorney, and the courtroom staff with absolute respect
  • Address the bench with questions, not the prosecutor
  • When you are asked a yes or no question, end your reply with “sir” or ma’am”
  • Do NOT interrupt the judge
  • Do NOT talk over the judge
  • If the judge talks over you, stop talking and let the judge speak
  • Do not curse in the courtroom
  • Do not smirk, laugh aloud, or act arrogant – judge’s do not take kindly to such behavior

Proper courtroom etiquette is essential to the success of a case. Unfortunately, many criminal defendants have dressed too casually, used their cellphones, or interrupted the judge repeatedly. These are all considered “bad courtroom behaviors” and they can have a huge impact on how a judge handles a case.

As Harrisburg criminal defense attorneys, we sincerely hope that you will heed our advice the next time you have a criminal court appearance – this way the judge, the prosecutor, and possibly the jury will have the best possible opinion about you, and will see that you truly respect the court and its procedures.