Criminal Justice: Courtroom Etiquette For Criminal Cases

Here is a guide on how to act in court when dealing with criminal cases.

It's never any fun when you have to go to court for a criminal case. Perhaps you're there for something minor, like a speeding ticket or other minor violation. Unfortunately, you might be there for something more serious. Either way, it's helpful to know how you should act to keep from making an already bad situation even worse.

The first thing that you should keep in mind when you're going to court is that you should stay seated and quiet until you're called upon. Speak only when spoken to, and don't interrupt anyone who is talking; though these things might seem minor at the time, they're a good way to make a judge, prosecutor, and jury to see you as someone with little respect for the law and for the courtroom. Act up too much, and the judge can even sentence you to a few days in jail for contempt of court.

Next, consider how you should speak to various people in the courtroom. You should always address the judge as "Your Honor", and any attorneys should be addressed as "Sir" or "Ma'am", appropriately. Unless you are defending yourself and making an opening or closing statement, the members of the jury shouldn't be addressed at all. When referring to any witnesses or other parties, you should address them by their last name and appropriate title. In other words, refer to someone as "Mr. Jacobs" instead of as "Marty".


You should dress well when coming to court, even for minor violations. That doesn't mean that you have to wear a suit when you're providing proof of insurance in relation to a traffic stop, but you shouldn't wear a dirty t-shirt and ratty jeans, either. When appearing for felony cases, wear a suit if possible. Your attorney might also have suggestions on how you should dress and act before the judge.

Most importantly, you need to remember that your attorney is there to represent you; for the most part, you are there as a spectator. If your attorney or the prosecutor puts you on the witness stand, then you should give your testimony (but only give answers to the questions that you're asked); for the rest of the time, you'll mostly be sitting there watching the proceedings and addressing your concerns privately (and quietly) to your attorney. Never interrupt a witness or loudly accuse anyone of lying or other falsehoods.

In the end, your fate is mostly in the hands of the justice system by the time that you get to court. You can help or hurt your chances of receiving a favorable verdict with your courtroom behavior; if you are polite, passive, and cooperative, it's much more likely for things to turn out as best they can than if you are rude, combatant, and hostile. Help your defense to do their jobs by letting them do their jobs. The more you interfere, the more difficult it will be for them to present you in a good light.

Cooperate with the legal teams and with the court, and maintain a calm and polite demeanor. That way, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to contempt of court, and even if you should wind up with a guilty verdict, you'll be more likely to get a reduced sentence. After all, there's no reason to spend more time in jail than you have to

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