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What is Proper Courtroom Etiquette?


If you are facing criminal charges in South Carolina, or anywhere else in the United States, you will be expected to show up in court. Like most places, when you go to court there is a proper way to dress and behave.

If you dress or act inappropriately, the judge will think that you are disrespecting him or her and their courtroom – leaving them with a "bad" impression about you. We want to ensure that you hear loud and clear that first impressions count! They especially count in court.

Every time a new client is going to court for the first time, we explain "proper courtroom etiquette." We go over when to show up, what to wear, how to act, and what to say and what not to say. You may be surprised, but a fresh haircut, a nice outfit, and a respectful attitude can go a long way – they can actually make or break a case.

On the other hand, jeans and a T-shirt, messy hair, a ringing cellphone, or a "bad attitude" in court can offend the judge, making it so the judge is less inclined to be lenient with the defendant. Instead, the judge is more likely to "go hard" on the defendant, which is the opposite of what the defense and the defendant want.

Being on Your 'Best Behavior' in Court

If you were wrongfully arrested, or if the arresting officers did not treat you with respect, if you are innocent, or if you feel like the system has failed you, we understand. But remember, no matter how you feel about your situation, the moment you step foot into that courtroom, you want to look and act your best. We assure you, you will be glad that you did.

Proper Courtroom Etiquette

  • Never miss a court appearance. If you do, a warrant will be issued for your arrest and your driver's license can be suspended. You can face additional charges for "failing to appear."
  • Show up to court early.
  • Please leave your children at home.
  • Dress in your "Sunday best," as if you're going to church or applying for a bank job.
  • Make sure your hair looks nice, even if it means getting a haircut.
  • Shut off your cellphone before entering the courtroom.
  • Stand whenever the judge enters or leaves the courtroom.
  • Address the judge as "Your Honor."
  • If asked a "yes" or "no" question, always end off with "sir" or ma'am."
  • If you have a question, direct it to the bench, not the prosecutor.
  • DO NOT interrupt the judge.
  • Be calm, polite, and respectful at all times in the courtroom.
  • Do not use foul language.
  • Do not make a mockery of the courtroom by smirking or laughing.
  • If the judge talks over you, STOP talking and allow the judge to proceed.

These are the basic rules of proper courtroom etiquette and it's critical that all criminal defendants, young and old, embrace them.

If you are facing criminal charges and have to appear in court, contactour Columbia criminal defense firm for a personal criminal defense consultation– we are on your side!

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