Today I saw a police officer get “chewed” out for chewing gum in court today. Which goes to show, that its not just criminal defendants who might need a refresher on how to dress and act for court.
A few basics:
- Be on time. If you are late for a criminal case, the judge might issue a warrant for your arrest. In a civil case, being late could mean dismissal of your case or a default judgment. In any event, failure to appear on time may mean a continuance and an irritated judge.
- Be dressed neatly and appropriately (I would say that “business casual” is at least the minimum level of dress you should aim for). Do not wear tank tops or bikinis to court. Don’t have tee shirts with offensive statements on them, like “the judge is an idiot” (I actually saw that in a Chicago courtroom about a month ago). If you have a DUI or drug case, don’t come to court with a shirt that tells the judge that you are a partier who likes booze and weed. If you have a battery case, don’t wear a shirt that “jokes” about you being violent.
- Don’t chew gum in the courtroom.
- Also, don’t talk while court is in session.
- Before entering the courtroom, take your cellphone and set it to silent or vibrate. Or just turn it off. Then put it away and don’t look at it in the courtroom. If you do, the sheriff might take it away. If you need to use the phone, go out to the hallway. But remember, anything you say while talking on the phone might be overheard by a passing judge, juror, sheriff, police officer, prosecutor or opposing attorney.
- Also, remember that before entering any courthouse, you will have to pass through security. Every courthouse has its own rules. Some do not allow any cell phones with cameras (Cameras are a no-no everywhere). Some do not allow laptops. None of them allow weapons or narcotics. If you are thinking of bringing something which might cause a hassle in the security line, check the sheriff’s office the day before. You don’t want to be delayed getting to your courtroom because the deputies won’t let you enter the building. Update: here is a guy who was arrested today bringing cocaine into the Kane County courthouse — for his delivery of cocaine case!
- Don’t drink the day before coming to court. Recently, I had a client come to court for a DUI trial that had been marked final (“no continuances”). The client had a strong odor of alcohol that was immediately apparent to me. The client said “I only drank last night.” This was not good. Luckily, the state’s witnesses did not appear and the case was dismissed. Had it proceeded, and the judge or deputy had more time to catch a whiff of the odor, this client might have been held in contempt of court.
- If your license is not valid, don’t drive to court. You might end up arrested. The sheriffs will sometimes pull the plate numbers of anyone who is coming to court that day with a suspended license, and keep a lookout for them. Other times, they will follow suspended drivers out of the building to see if they drove to court. (By the way, if your license is suspended, don’t drive, period. Sooner or later you will be stopped and you will end up in jail).
- Get a good night’s sleep. You don’t want to be falling asleep or yawning in the courtroom. You don’t want to be like this guy who was jailed for yawning in a Joliet courtroom.
I’m sure I could keep on going, but I am sure that you get the picture.