If you have a court appearance coming up and have only seen a court hearing on television, you likely have questions regarding rules of behavior and etiquette. In simple terms, courtroom etiquette refers to the rules of proper conduct—items you can and cannot bring, how you should dress, and how you should present your case to the judge.
Prohibited Items in Court
Before entering any judicial court building, all visitors are screened by a magnetometer, and personal belongings are scanned with an x-ray machine. To ensure the safety of staff, visitors, and the grounds, the following items are strictly prohibited inside the building:
- Food & beverages
- Electronic equipment (unless approved by the court)
- Weapons of any sort
- Any bag larger than 18” x 14” x 8.5”
When preparing to go to court, one of Andrew Beasley’s attorneys will review any documentation required for the proceeding and what you should avoid bringing. If you’re unsure whether you should bring an item, it likely should stay at home or in your vehicle.
Regarding children, though not prohibited from entering the courtroom, it is advised they stay at home (unless otherwise instructed by your attorney). Court proceedings can sometimes last an entire day; keeping small children entertained and quiet for long periods can be difficult.
Court proceedings must be digitally recorded, so silence is mandatory during any and all hearings. Talking, laughing, shouting, and other loud noises will not be tolerated, and you’ll be asked to leave the courtroom until your case is heard. In extreme circumstances, the judge may hold violators in contempt of court if these rules are not followed after the first warning.
If you arrive early to court and your case won’t be presented to the judge for a few hours, you can wait outside the courtroom in the lobby, hallway, and conference rooms. Here you’re free to use your cell phone, read a book, or communicate with your attorney until it’s time to present your case to the judge.
Cell Phone Rules
Cell phones are allowed in the Nashville courthouses and some nearby counties but must be silent for the duration of your time. You are not allowed to use your phone in the courtroom or hearing rooms unless specified directly by the judge or attorney. You can make phone calls or send text messages in common areas, but you should be mindful of the conversations being held in a public environment. If the call can wait until after your court hearing, it should. It’s advisable to avoid all electronic use until after you leave the courthouse.
Addressing the Court
One of the most important rules of courtroom etiquette is addressing the court. You always want to represent yourself professionally and courteously while interacting with court officials. Address the judge as “Your Honor” or “Judge” and use a prefix before a surname when communicating with other officials.
Courtrooms can often be large, sound-absorbing open spaces. For this reason, you should speak loudly and clearly to ensure the judge and court recorder can hear what is being said.
Additionally, you should always stand when addressing the court (advise the judge if you have a disability that would make this difficult). You’ll be instructed by your attorney or the judge to stand at the counsel table or the podium to address your case and discuss your side of events. Be direct with your responses—answering questions in full and not in a roundabout manner.
When representing yourself in court, it’s important to consider the part—presenting yourself conservatively and respectably. Inappropriate attire is strictly prohibited, including:
- T-shirts promoting profanity, violence, sexual acts, or drug/alcohol use
- Muscle shirts
- Tank tops
- Sweatpants & athleisure
- Flip flops or sandals
- Ripped, tattered, or soiled clothing
- Revealing garments
As Andrew Beasley will tell any of his clients, “dress nice but not so nice that you feel uncomfortable.” Some clients are comfortable showing up in a suit and tie, and others are not. For men who prefer to wear something a bit less formal, khakis or slacks with a button-down shirt and closed-toed shoes will do just fine. For women, slacks or a modest skirt with a flattering blouse or blazer are acceptable.
Judges understand some clients don’t have the time to change after work for their court appearance—if you have to show up in work clothes, it’s okay and won’t affect your sentencing.
Andrew Beasley Knows Courtroom Etiquette
At Andrew Beasley, we use a strategic approach to defend our clients and will do everything possible to achieve the best outcome for your situation. All we ask from your end is cooperation with our attorneys and adherence to courtroom rules and regulations.
When you’re respectful and understanding of court officials, you’ll receive the same respect in return. If you have questions before your court date, the attorneys at Andrew Beasley are happy to walk you through what to expect and how you should dress and will be by your side every step of the way.
Nashville’s Criminal Defense Experts
Proudly serving Nashville, TN, and the surrounding areas, Andrew Beasley Attorneys at Law are available 24/7 for your convenience. We offer free consultations with experience from a former prosecutor who can help you understand the legal process and what you’re facing in court. We aim to provide our clients with a reliable criminal defense they can trust.