Going to court can be intimidating process. The stress and worry about having a court appearance can be alleviated by understanding some basic information about how a court room operates. Knowing some tips on how to dress and behave, how to speak, and what to expect will help to assuage worries and prepare you for time spent in court. The following tips will assist you if you are called upon to speak in a courtroom.
Follow Courtroom Rules
When being questioned when on the stand, do not look to the attorney or at the judge for help in answering the question. If the question is improper, there will be an objection. If a question is asked and there is no objection, answer it. Never substitute your ideas of what you believe the rules of evidence are.
Appearance Is Important
It is important to have a neat appearance and proper dress in court. An appearance that is overly casual or exceedingly dressy can distract the jury or give a wrong impression of your intentions during the brief time you are on the stand. A clean and professional appearance will help the jury to pay attention to your testimony.
Being Sworn In
Being sworn in is the first step when you are called to testify. When you take the oath it is important to stand up straight, pay attention to the clerk, and say “I do” clearly.
If you are attending court for any reason it is important to exhibit responsible behavior. Be serious, do not chew gum or eat, avoid laughing, and do not say anything about the case unless you are on the witness stand.
Recall What Happened
Before you testify it is important to refresh your memory. Try to picture what happened, what people and objects were there, and how everything was related. This will assist you in accurately recalling the facts when you are asked a question. If you are not positive, or if the question is about distances or time, make sure to be clear that your statement is an estimate based on your memory.
Speak In Your Own Words
Don’t try to memorize what you are going to say. Memorizing text can make your testimony sound insincere and unconvincing. Instead, be yourself. Prior to trial go over in your own mind the matter about which you will be questioned. Beware of suggestions by attorneys as to distance, times, or generalizations about situations. Do not agree with their estimate unless you independently arrive at the same conclusion, and be sure to state so in your own words.
Be Positive and Confident
You can be positive about important details which you would naturally remember. Do not make up answers, and avoid saying, “I think”, “I believe”, or “In my opinion” if you can answer truthfully and assuredly. If you know an answer, state it clearly and succinctly. If you are asked about little details or minutia which would be difficult for any person to remember, it is best just to say so if you don’t remember. Give positive, definite answers when at all possible.
If a judge interrupts you or an attorney objects to a question, stop speaking instantly. Wait for the judge to tell you to continue before answering.
It is easy to become intimidated by the formality, practices, and rules that are present in the courtroom, or to have an opinion of what could happen that is based on television programs instead of reality. Preparing yourself for the situation, whether you are attending to testify or as a supporter, will help you to alleviate any worries that you may have about the situation. Knowing what to expect is the best way to help yourself prepare to participate in this important part of the judicial process.