Those receiving a court summons to appear before a judge should take it seriously. Failure to show up in court under order of a subpoena or summons will result in a variety of consequences, from being found guilty to having a capias issued on the person failing to appear. Actually going to court can be daunting, especially for those who have never been. Follow these tips to avoid misbehaving and making a poor impression on the judge or jury.
Only speak when spoken to by an attorney, bailiff or judge. Chiming in unexpectedly will likely result in being told to stay quiet. When answering a question, use sir and ma’am whenever possible.
Tell the truth. All witnesses are sworn or affirmed to tell the truth before giving testimony. To lie or deliberately withhold information may result in charges of perjury or contempt of court.
Plan to arrive early. There may be difficulties in finding parking or locating the right courtroom. Security checkpoints may have a long line and the deputies and marshals will not be rushed when it comes to public safety. They will likely start the courtroom docket on time, and the judge expects everyone to be there on time and ready to go.
The courtroom may be restricted to people entering and exiting at will. Do not get up and leave in the middle of someone’s testimony. Some proceedings are closed to the public. At times, the judge may clear the courtroom if the case involves a particularly sensitive subject. Disruptive behavior may also result in people being removed from the room.
Don’t shout out or comment on other people’s testimony or an attorney’s arguments. If someone is a witness, they will be called upon to testify at some point. If not, they need to stay quiet or they may be asked to leave the courtroom.
When testifying or appearing for a case, each person should tell the court reporter their name and clearly spell it. This will help ensure proper identification of speakers when the hearing or trial court reporter is doing their job of taking down the proceedings on their stenotype machine for legal transcription services.
Court stenographers may sometimes ask a witness or lawyer to repeat what they said. This is not a request to explain it. It is a request to use the exact same words loud and clear so that the record is accurate.
Do not argue with the judge or courthouse personnel. Those who do will be reprimanded or restrained. If it continues, the person can be found in contempt of court, detained or banned from the courtroom.
Do not chew gum. No food or drink is allowed unless the person is given special permission by the court clerk or judge. Jurors are permitted to bring a snack or their lunch, but it must be kept in the jury room or another area specifically designated by the courtroom personnel. Those with special dietary needs should speak to the bailiff during the jury selection process.
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