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COURTROOM ETIQUETTE: WHAT TO DO AND WHAT YOU BETTER NOT DO IN COURT
Going to court can be unnerving and the rattling for some people. Many people don’t know what to do or what to say when they’re in court. Tulsa criminal defense attorney Stephen Cale offers some tips on courtroom etiquette. Here’s what you should do and not do when going to court.
1. BE ON TIME – IN FACT, BE EARLY
Give yourself some extra time to be on time. Traffic jams from construction, car accidents, and people going to work happen every day. You can expect these things to happen. So, leave for court early to avoid these problems.
You’ll also need to give yourself extra time to find a parking space. At some courthouses, you can park in the parking garage or public parking. Some side street parking requires coins for parking meters or bills, debit cards or credit cards for parking spot kiosks. Sometimes you have to drive around the block to find a parking space. So again, it’s better to get started out early and give yourself extra time to be on time.
At many courthouses, like the Tulsa County Courthouse or the Rogers County Courthouse people have to go through security. This takes time. You have to put all your stuff in that little dish that looks like a dog bowl. Then, you have to place any purse, bag or briefcase through the x-ray machine. After that, you have to walk through the metal detector. If the metal detector goes off, the deputy will have to get a portable metal detector wand and scan you. This just takes up more time. Be ready for that by heading out early for court.
IF YOU’RE LATE, IT’S A BIG MISTAKE
If the judge calls your case and name, and you don’t answer, his or her inclination is to issue a warrant for your arrest and to forfeit your bond. Sure, you could arrive late and tell the judge that your present. But this is going to really irritate the judge. That’s the last thing that you want to do. Being late also puts your attorney in an awkward position. The attorney will have to argue to the judge to hold off on a warrant pending your late arrival. This just takes up more of the judge’s valuable time. If you don’t have an attorney, check out my video and article on the five reasons why you need an attorney.
2. DRESS TO IMPRESS
People are impressed by the way others dress. This may not be fair, but it’s a fact of life. Wearing a suit and tie is good if you have one. If you don’t have one, try to dress “business casual.” This can be nice dress pants, a dress shirt and a tie if you have one. For the ladies, dress pants and a dress shirt will work. A nice dress okay too. If you don’t have a suit or business casual attire, your next best option is jeans and a nice shirt. If at all possible, avoid wearing a T-shirt.
REMEMBER: YOU’RE GOING TO COURT, NOT THE BEACH
There are some things that are just not acceptable, said Tulsa criminal defense attorney Stephen Cale. And remember, you don’t want to irritate the judge. A judge may view you as being disrespectful if you don’t dress appropriately. Remember, you’re going to court, not the beach. So, don’t wear these things to court: shorts, flip-flops, take tops, hats, and pants hanging below your waist. If you are accustomed to wearing a hat, take it off before entering the courtroom. If you don’t, a deputy will tell you to remove it.
3. TURN YOUR PHONE OFF
It’s really irritating to a judge when someone’s cell phone goes off while the court is trying to conduct business. If your cell phone goes off during court, chances are the judge will tell a deputy to confiscate it and you won’t get it back until the end of the day.
There’s an easy solution to this. Turn your phone off. The opposite of “on” is “off,” not “silent.” Do you know what happens when your phone is off? The answer is nothing. When you turn your phone off, you can be sure that there won’t be any ringing or notification tones. Sometimes before court gets started, a bailiff will instruct everyone to turn their cell phones off.
4. STAND UP
There are a couple instances when you should stand up in court. The first is when your name is called from the docket. The docket is a list of cases that the court will be addressing. So, when the judge calls your name and case, stand up and say “present.” The judge will want to see that you are actually in court. Also, stand up when the judge speaks to you. This is a courtroom formality. Attorneys also stand up while making objections, when their clients’ cases are called, and when the judge is speaking to them. Not standing up is viewed as being disrespectful.
5. AVOID SAYING “YEAH,” “UH-HUH,” “NAH”
There’s a right way and a wrong way to respond to the judge’s questions. Short answers to a judge should be “Yes, your Honor” or “No, your Honor. Do not say things like “yeah,” “Uh-huh,” “Nah,” etc. Responses like this to the judge are disrespectful and not good for you.
I can recall one time when a client of mine responded “yeah” to the judge. We were in the judge’s chambers for a plea deal. My client was facing 10 years in prison. But I negotiated a deal with the District Attorney’s Office to where he would be on probation and not have to go to prison at all.
I prepared all of the plea paperwork and presented it to the judge. The judge reviewed the paperwork, recited its terms and asked my client if this was his understanding of the plea agreement. My client slouched and said “yeah.”
I immediately turned my client and sternly said, “It’s yes, your Honor.” The judge was not pleased with my client’s response and his lack of respect. In fact, the judge said that he did not have to accept the agreement and that he could put the case on the trial docket, leaving my client with the prospect of going to prison if convicted by a jury.
The judge’s scolding was like a splash of cold water my client’s face. His posture changed. He wasn’t slouching anymore but set up straight. From then on, responses to the judge’s questions were “Yes, your honor” or “No, your Honor.” The judge’s anger subsided and he accepted the plea deal. My client didn’t have to go to prison, fortunately.
HIRE ME TO DO THE TALKING FOR YOU
Attorneys speak for their clients. Lawyers know the formalities of the courtroom and can instruct their clients on how to act. Hiring an attorney has tremendous benefits. You need to have somebody who will be in your corner and make you presentable in court. If you’ve been charged with a crime, call Tulsa criminal defense attorney Stephen Cale at 918-771-7314. Attorney Cale has nearly 20 years of experience. And, he focuses his practice on criminal defense. Take a look at Five Reasons You Need A Tulsa Criminal Defense Attorney Instead of Representing Yourself.