Being the defendant in a courtroom can be nerve-wracking. The formal nature of courtroom proceedings can make even the most cool-headed person feel anxious. Many can feel worried about doing or saying the wrong thing.

Making a good impression on the judge is important for any defendant. Conducting yourself with respect and poise is key. Knowing basic courtroom etiquette will help you make it through your court appearances.

Preparing yourself before court

The first steps to make a positive impression happen before court even starts. Prepare yourself by:

  • Wearing business-appropriate attire. The courtroom is a formal place. Dress like you are going to a business meeting.
  • Arriving early. Being late to your court appearance make a bad impression. Do your best to arrive early, just to be safe.
  • Asking your attorney any questions. If you have any questions or concerns, address them to your attorney before court starts.
  • Turning off your devices. You don’t want your electronics interrupting court proceedings. Turn off your devices before the judge arrives.

Doing these things will help set the courtroom proceedings off on the right foot.

How to act while court is in session

You will notice that there are a lot of formalities in the courtroom. It can be difficult to keep track of everything that you should and shouldn’t do. But basic rules of etiquette involve:

  • Standing when the judge enters and leaves the courtroom. Just as you stand for the pledge of allegiance, standing for a judge shows respect. Oftentimes, a court staff member will prompt this by saying “all rise.”
  • Waiting for your turn to speak. Interrupting anyone in the courtroom is in very bad form, even if someone says something you don’t agree with or you have a sudden, burning question. Interrupting someone can come across as disrespectful, aggressive, or undermining to the judge’s authority.
  • Referring to the judge as “your honor.” Addressing a judge as “your honor” shows you respect their station. When answering a judge’s question, for example, it is right to say “yes, your honor” or “no, your honor.”
  • Directing your concerns or remarks to your attorney. Your attorney went to law school for a reason and they are your guide through the court process. If you have concerns or questions that come up during court, don’t be afraid to turn to your attorney and ask.

A courtroom is usually not a casual environment, by any measure. But keeping basic courtroom etiquette in mind will ultimately help you navigate through the formalities. It is not a bad idea to ask an experienced defense attorney for tips on how to make the best impression possible.