Basic Rules of Court Conduct
The courtroom is a place of conservative structure and order. You should, at all times, act humble and well-mannered when in the presence of the Judge, court staff, attorneys, court officers and other persons attending court.
If you have been ordered to appear in court, it is imperative to understand what is considered proper court conduct. Here are some tips to help you be well prepared:
When Appearing in Court
The most important thing is to appear in court on time. It is essential to understand that court may not always start at the scheduled time, but it is nonetheless imperative for anyone charged with a criminal offense to arrive in court several minutes in advance of the time the case has been scheduled for.
Always stand up when the judge enters or leaves the courtroom and when you are speaking to the judge.
When speaking to the judge, be sure to speak clearly and address the judge as “Your Honor.” Never interrupt a judge when they are addressing you or the other person in court. If you have a question about something you have heard, wait until the judge or whoever is speaking, is done to ask any questions. Do not under any circumstance approach the judge’s bench unless you have been instructed to do so.
When you are ready to exit the courtroom, walk out in a way that is respectful of others, not making too much noise or causing any distraction.
As you are entering the courthouse, you will go through a security checkpoint, similar to that at an airport. All of your belongings must pass through an x-ray scanner and you will be required to walk through a metal detector. Therefore, make sure you are not bringing any prohibited items into the courthouse beforehand.
Make sure you do not bring any food, drink, gum, etc. into the courthouse. The deputy on duty working the metal detector will toss any such items in the trash.
No weapon of any kind is permitted inside the courthouse. No guns. No knives. No pepper spray. Guns, knives or pepper spray will be confiscated and you could be charged with a criminal offense. In addition, electronic devices, such as cameras, voice recorders, laptops and iPads are not permitted inside a courthouse.
Cell phones must be turned off while inside a courthouse. If your cell phone rings inside a courtroom, the judge will confiscate it and assess a fine.
Dressing for Court
The general rule is to dress conservatively.
Your physical appearance is very important when in the courtroom. It will be the first thing people notice about you. You will be appearing before a judge and so it is in your best interest to appear as a respectful individual.
- Men – wear shoes with socks; long pants (wear a belt with pants that have belt loops); a collared shirt (tucked in) with a tie; with or without a jacket.
- Women: closed toe shoes; a dress, skirt or long pants; a blouse, casual dress shirt, or sweater.
Do not wear hats, sunglasses, tube or halter tops, torn or ripped jeans, short skirts or shorts, baggy pants that fall below the waist, or t-shirts with explicit content or depicting sexual acts, violence, or drugs.
Most importantly, be sufficiently groomed. Brush your hair. If you have facial hair, it should be groomed and trimmed.
Children in the Courtroom
The courtroom is not an appropriate place for children. Many of the topics discussed inside a courtroom are not appropriate for children and could potentially be distressing or confusing. You should make arrangements for a friend or relative to watch your child(ren) while you are in court, unless the court has ordered them to be present.