In life, there are plenty of times when you should speak up for yourself. In court, it’s often the exact opposite.
Now, this doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to plead your case. You do—you simply need to be careful about how you do it. Most judges are very strict about courtroom rules, and anything you say can affect your case.
A good way to appear professional in court is to only speak when prompted. When you do get to say something, make sure to respect court etiquette. For example, here are seven things you should avoid saying at all costs. View this website to learn more about what we can offer you!
1. Planned Speeches
When it comes to speaking to the judge, it’s best if you use your own words. Delivering a planned speech is never a good idea.
Why is this a problem? Well, memorizing your testimony will likely make it seem rehearsed and unconvincing. If you want the judge to believe you, your answers must not sound like you’re getting coached.
Instead of planning an entire speech, think about the case before the trial. Jog your memory by reflecting on the things, people, and places relevant to the case. That way, you’ll have a general idea of how to answer the key questions at the trial.
Contrary to what you may have heard, coming to court unprepared is fine. At least, until you try to put the blame for it on someone else.
See, defendants forget to bring forms and documents all the time. The judges tend to be understandable of the issue—as long as you admit your mistake. All they want from you is to be contrite, apologize, and come prepared next time.
Also, saying something and claiming you didn’t know what it meant later is not a valid excuse. It makes you seem careless and uninterested in your case. If you don’t know what some legal terms mean, refrain from quoting them in court.
3. Bad Language
If you find yourself in court, chances are you feel wronged. That said, this is no excuse for getting angry or not controlling your temper.
For starters, most judges appreciate good manners. If you can stay courteous throughout the proceedings, you’re only helping your case. If you get angry and start yelling, you’ll seem less objective.
Needless to say, screaming and cursing at a judge is a particularly bad idea. On top of being disrespectful, the judge may decide to throw you in jail for contempt. If you keep your temper under wraps, you’re already ahead of the curve.
Being sarcastic may also make you come off as angry, so avoid that as well. Steer clear from phrases such as “Whatever,” as they’re too ambiguous. Keep a formal demeanor and make your answers as clear as possible.
4. Volunteered Information
Speaking of good answers, you’ll never want to provide more information than necessary. Keep your answers as concise as you can.
If you’ve watched your share of courtroom dramas, you know why this is important. The more information you volunteer, the more likely you are to say something you shouldn’t. Do yourself a favor and keep your observations to yourself.
The only time you should state your opinion in court is when the judge asks for it directly. Even then, make sure you only provide your own opinions. Don’t offer information that someone else told you unless prompted.
5. These Particular Words
So far, we only talked about the general things you shouldn’t say to a judge. Well, there are some specific words you should never say as well:
- Assuming arguendo
Can you spot the common theme? That’s right: these are all words that will make you seem less approachable in court. The more you try to seem like a professional lawyer, the less will people be able to relate to you.
Another thing you should avoid saying is, “I want to state this for the record.” If there’s a court reporter present, everything you say is already on the record. Saying this implies that the judge isn’t listening or is a synonym for “Mark my words!”
If there’s no court reporter, stating things “for the record” looks even worse. In this case, it seems like you’re imploring the judge to write it down and think about it later. In other words, there’s never a good reason to utter this phrase.
Exaggerating things is never a good tactic when it comes to criminal defense. Again, short answers are the way to go.
Experienced judges have a keen sense of when people exaggerate—and they don’t like it. Plus, exaggerating things is only one step away from lying. Of course, lying in court means you’re committing perjury, which could land you in prison.
This goes for generalized statements as well. If you need a few seconds to provide an accurate answer, go ahead and do that. Giving a generalized statement only means that you’ll likely need to correct it later.
7. Things You Can’t Amend
Finally, you don’t want to say anything you can’t amend. This usually refers to bad language, but it can relate to any definitive statements.
The issue with definitive statements is that they may not be as definitive as you think. Unless you’re completely certain about something, keep a lid on it. Avoid phrases such as, “That’s all he said,” or “That’s all that happened.”
Instead, try to provide more open-ended answers. This can include phrases like, “That’s all I remember,” or “As far as I recall.” That way, if you remember more details later, you’ll be able to amend your statement.
More on Court Etiquette
As you can see, court etiquette is something you should take very seriously. If you’re not careful, you risk facing the judge’s wrath. Before appearing in court, go through this article again for a better experience in court.
Of course, the other part of winning a court case is having good legal help. Are you looking for an experienced criminal justice attorney who will work tirelessly to protect your legal rights?