Any legal matter, whether it’s divorce proceedings, contract disputes or criminal cases, can be intimidating to handle on your own.
However, before you decide to take the time to hire an attorney, or represent yourself in court, there are some things that you should never do when appearing before a judge or jury.
Here are ten things that you should never do in a court of law…
This is probably one of the most important thing to remember when you are in front of a judge.
They are not your friend and will be upset if they find out that you lied about anything.
Plus, lying can lead to being found guilty for something even if it was not what happened. The witness testimony could have been different than the truth because of your lies.
2) Never confess on your own behalf
this might sound like common sense, but some people still think they’re saving themselves by telling everything.
When someone confesses without being coerced, then the only person who suffers is themselves because now there’s no chance at getting away with their crimes.
3) Commit perjury
Perjury is lying under oath, and it’s one of the most serious offenses someone can commit.
While many people may think that telling a lie under oath doesn’t have any consequences, the penalties for perjury are actually quite severe.
Perjury can lead to fines, imprisonment, or even deportation and can be punished with up to five years in jail.
For example, if someone commits perjury while testifying during their own trial they could receive up to five years in jail.
If someone testifies falsely about another person’s guilt then this could be considered obstruction of justice which has its own set of charges and penalties.
Additionally, if the person perjures themselves when providing evidence in an investigation then this would count as obstructing justice which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
4) Bring illegal drugs into the courtroom
Drugs are not allowed in the courtroom for obvious reasons. If an officer discovers that you have drugs on your person, he or she will be obliged to arrest and charge you with carrying illegal substances.
If the judge finds out about this, it can seriously damage your case. You might also get arrested by a police officer who is present at the courthouse.
You would then be subject to criminal charges as well as disciplinary action from the judge.
5) Speak before you’re called:
In any proceeding where there are multiple parties, only one party will be allowed to speak at a time.
Everyone else must remain silent unless they are asked a question by the judge. Speaking without being called upon constitutes contempt of court and could land you in hot water with the judge.
6) Dress inappropriately
Dress appropriately for the situation. If you’re going to be testifying, it’s best to dress conservatively. You can’t go wrong with a dark suit and tie.
Keep your hair neat and tidy, and wear something that isn’t too revealing or short.
Ladies, don’t wear anything with lots of cleavage or tight clothing; those are more appropriate for an evening out on the town than a courtroom appearance.
Make sure your nails are manicured and clean. Carry yourself well—don’t slouch or talk loudly in court.
These things will only annoy the judge and make you look bad in front of others.
7) Speak clearly:
Make sure you speak loud enough for people to hear what you have to say. No one wants to strain their ears just so they can understand what is being said on the stand!
8) Disrespect the judge or other court personnel
It is not uncommon to see people disrespecting the judge or other court personnel.
This is unwise, as it can lead to jail time, fines, or contempt charges.
Furthermore, judges and others will be less inclined to help you if they are disrespected.
If you disagree with something that’s said during your hearing, politely say so and respectfully explain why.
The judge may change their mind! To avoid getting in trouble, remember to show respect at all times.
Remember that a courtroom is an official place and should be treated as such.
Courts have strict rules about what cannot be brought into them; please make sure that you know these rules before entering one.
9) Use your cell phone in court
Don’t use your cell phone while testifying. It’s important to be fully focused on the testimony, and not distracted by anything else.
The judge will also want to know what your testimony is about, and if you’re paying attention to something else he or she may think that you are not telling the truth.
Even looking at your phone can seem like you’re paying more attention to it than what the judge is saying.
If someone needs to contact you during testimony (a family member with an emergency), tell them beforehand where they can find you so they don’t disrupt proceedings.
Keep in mind that using any electronic device for any reason could break the rules.
All electronics must be turned off before entering the courtroom.
Be courteous and turn off phones, tablets, computers or any other electronic devices before coming into the courtroom so they won’t distract others in attendance or interfere with sound systems used during trials.
10) Bring weapons into the courtroom
Whether it be a weapon concealed on your person or an otherwise illicit item found during an inspection.
if it is brought into the courtroom and discovered, you will be asked to leave and may even be arrested.
Similarly, you can’t wear clothes with pockets that extend more than 4 inches below the bottom edge of your shirt (or trousers) because they might contain items that are banned from being carried into courthouses.
Clothing with bulky designs (such as large stripes or checks) also cannot be worn.
And lastly, food isn’t allowed in most courts for fear that insects could get inside and contaminate evidence exhibits such as tissue slides or microorganisms in petri dishes.