Thought you could talk the police officer out of that speeding ticket, huh… but now you’re stuck with a court date and you’re nervous about having to stand in front of a judge. Whatever crime you’ve committed, whether large or small, there are certain tips to always follow for putting your best foot forward when it matters the most. Learn how to carry yourself in court so that you don’t make a bad situation even worse.
1. Dress the part. Men should wear dark blue and women should wear black; at the very least, pick a neutral, even if it’s a light color. Whatever color you choose to wear, make sure your clothing is conservative, neat and tailored. Keep jewelry to a minimum and avoid the urge to wear anything flashy. If you have a military uniform, you should definitely wear it.
2. Hold yourself properly, literally. Maintain good posture by sitting or standing up straight. Don’t slump over or lean on whatever you’re near.
3. Pay attention to what’s going on. That way, if the judge asks you a question directly, you won’t be stunned and without an answer. Also, showing that you’re interested in what’s being said about your court case shows that you’re taking responsibility for whatever situation you’re in. If you don’t understand something for some reason and you need to address the judge, first say, “Your Honor?”
4. Don’t make comments off to the side, even if you think nobody can hear them because they’re under your breath. It will be obvious that you’re making snide remarks while the judge or someone else is speaking, which is inappropriate.
5. If you have a lawyer, ask him for tips that you can use to win over the judge. The type of case you’re facing will determine certain ways in which you should act. A good lawyer will know how to advise you to be on your best behavior and also what to expect.
6. Answer every single question out loud, even if it’s a simple “yes” or “no” answer. If you nod or shake your head, you’ll be asked by the judge to speak your answers.
7. Keep your hands still and in your lap. Avoid the urge to fidget or touch your hair or face – you’ll look nervous, not confident.
Testifying in Front of a Jury
If there’s going to be a jury in the courtroom, there’s a host of other recommendations to follow. In the end, you need the jurors to be on your side. When answering questions, speak to the jury. This may seem awkward, because the attorney is the person who’s going to be answering the questions. Ultimately, though, everything that’s going on in the courtroom is for the jurors, so you should address them directly. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact with the jurors while you’re speaking, which will instill trust and help get them on your side. Whatever you do, don’t look at your own attorney when answering questions. Jurors will view this as looking for help, which means the question asked could be damaging.
If you can’t afford a lawyer and you’re going to be representing yourself, you shouldn’t go into it blind. Small claims court is specifically designed for individuals, not necessarily lawyers. Before you go to court, talk with the court clerk to find out what you need to do, where you need to be and when you need to be there, and what documents you’ll need. While you may not need a lawyer standing by your side, you should still consult one when it comes to your court documents. If your paperwork isn’t filled out correctly, fixing the mistake could take a very long time.