Like any other endeavor in life, how one presents oneself before a decision maker can often play a significant role in a desired outcome. This reality is never more true than for a client appearing within a criminal courtroom during the course of an onging prosecution or at the time of a dui sentencing hearing.
Depending upon the county, the individual commanded before a court may be barraged with a list of rules the person must adhere to prior to entry within the courtroom. Cell phone usage is almost always prohibited to the extent that some counties do not even allow for cell phones to be brought within the courthouse. As most counties now have security apparatus in place upon entry into a judicial building, the individual will be checked for any firearms or other devices or materials that can in any way disrupt legal proceedings.
Although it should go without mention, many a courthouse visitor has had the misguided understanding that a firearm could be brought into a courtroom irrespective of security monitoring by virtue of a license allowing for the possession of a firearm. This is not the case and can subject the person harboring such a belief to potential criminal arrest and having a prized weapon confiscated.
While there very well may be a listing of designated rules as to what can and cannot be brought into a courtroom, it is far less likely that a judicial policy will exist telling courtroom visitors how to dress or otherwise behave within a courtroom or more importantly before a judge if facing criminal charges.
I am often amazed at the extent by which even individuals charged with crimes who have retained private counsel appear woefully unprepared for a courtroom presentation. For the purpose of this discussion I refer to the manner that the client has been prepared to dress or otherwise conduct himself or herself before a judge who could very well decide a dui case outcome.
When a client asks me how they should dress within a courtroom before even I can advise them, I already know that no matter my response, such an individual is more than likely going to appear for their court proceeding in far more respectful attire than any other person facing criminal charges.
Common sense dictates that one should dress and act in a criminal courtroom in a manner that conveys respect for the court and the process by which justice will be administered. Whether an individual has contempt for the court, judge and/or prosecutor and the manner in which a prosecution is being conducted, wise policy is to nonetheless restrain such hostile impulses and follow the lead of experienced dui defense counsel. To do less is to risk options that can otherwise prevent a judge from embracing case dismissals, lenient penalties or in dui cases most often subject to incarceration, alternatives to jail or prison that may be potentially available under Indiana law.
I cannot express how frequently I witness those subject to criminal prosecution appearing in court wearing t shirts, sagging jeans exposing underwear, nose rings, eyebrow piercings and other forms of expression that is tolerated as free speech outside of a criminal tribunal but can do nothing to aid in a positive case resolution within it.
Generally speaking I am prone to advise a client to wear a collared shirt for a man, blouse for a woman, dress shoes and avoiding jeans at all costs. Such advisements are subject to be changed if experience dictates a particular viewpoint on a defendant’s attire by a presiding judge with specific thoughts on the subject.
I will likely advise that the term, “your honor” be used when addressing the judge, personal thoughts to the contrary. At no time should loud talking take place within the presence of the courtroom while other hearings are being conducted even with your attorney. Eye to eye contact with the judge advising you on issues involving your case is necessary indicating an active involvement and participation in your case outcome.
Looking away from a judge, talking to others during the proceedings, dressing inappropriately or in any other manner conveying verbal or body language disrespectful to the court proceedings will never work in an individual’s favor.
Expressing ones’s individual style and personality I believe to be an essential right of every American. All citizens are better for the creativity of free thought and dress in all of its forms. If the study of American history teaches us anything it is that the most significant advances made within our society have often come from such free and bold thinkers with the bravery to go against the grain of conventional wisdom and thought.
With that being said, one must recognize that judges who preside over their criminal courtrooms are not prone to look favorably on the free expression of criminal defendants that in any way can be interpreted as disprupting the order of a courtroom and the administration of justice within it.
If one wishes to excercise free speech in dress and manner contrary to the desired procedure of almost all dui courtrooms in the state of Indiana, the individual must be prepared to face the potential consequences of that form of protest, nonwithstanding an attorney’s hard fought agreement to aid in the favorable resolution of a criminal case.