Many, if not most, criminal defense lawyers will explain to their clients how to conduct themselves in court. Nevertheless, below we provide you with some basic protocols to follow when in the courtroom. While judges, prosecutors, court personnel, and jurors may not reward you for creating a favorable impression, they will likely rule against you or more harshly punish you if you fail to civilly conduct yourself.
When to Speak
Unless a judge specifically addresses you, he wants to speak only with your criminal defense attorney. Therefore, allow your lawyer to address the court on your behalf. Judges quickly become annoyed by defendants who interrupt their lawyers. If your lawyer has mistated the facts, neglected to include a material fact, or failed to raise an important legal defense, ask him if you can speak with him for a moment. Most judges will allow a lawyer and his client to briefly converse during the proceedings or take a recess to allow them to talk privately or to have a more indepth conversation.
Defendants who interrupt judges and prosecutors, either to challenge factual representations or argue points of law, risk unleashing the wrath of the court.
How to Address the Court
If the judge asks you a question, address the judge as “Your Honor.” If you are uncomfortable referring to someone as “Your Honor,” you can simply address him as “Judge.” Do your best to directly answer the questions asked and resist the temptation to offer excuses or to raise issues outside the scope of the questions. Speak in a calm and clear voice. If you need a moment to collect your thoughts or to regain your composure, take it. Criminal proceedings are always emotionally difficult.
Allow Your Criminal Defense Lawyer to Listen to Witnesses
To properly represent you, permit your attorney to listen to the witnesses called by the prosecution to testify against you. To effectively cross-examine a witness, a lawyer must focus on exactly what the witness is saying, as well as the witness’s mannerisms, body language, and tone of voice. These are vital clues to the witness’s candor and perceived credibility. Therefore, resist the temptation to talk to your criminal defense lawyer as witnesses are testifying. Should you attempt to speak with your lawyer during a witness’s testimony, you will only distract him. If you believe that you possess critical information that you have not previously disclosed to him, such as a fact that would discredit the witness, jot it down on a piece of paper and slide it over to your lawyer.
Never Let Them See You Sweat
No matter what you hear inside that courtroom, resist the temptation to roll your eyes, shake your head, exhale loudly or utter something sarastic or nasty in response. Never permit those who unfairly characterize you to successfully bait you into lowering yourself to their level.
Maintain Your Dignity
Above all else, maintain your dignity. While you may have run afoul of the law, you are a human being. Never allow the judge or the prosecutor to rob you of your sense of self or sense of self-worth. And never, ever surrender your sense of self-worth to them. If you can maintain your dignity in this cauldron of hell, you can survive any experience.
Contact an Experienced Cambridge Criminal Defense Lawyer
Call us at 617-492-0055 to arrange a free in-office consultation with one of our Massachusetts criminal attorneys.