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Dress to impress: what to wear to court

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Let’s face it. Everyone wants to make a good first impression. And the clothes you wear can often make or break a good impression. Much like any job interview, how you dress is equally important when going to court. In court, you will be judge on everything from your criminal history to the clothes you wear. How you choose to present yourself can directly impact the judge and jury, and the outcome of your case.

When you are getting dressed for your day in court, wear professional attire. Men should dress in a suit and tie, or in khaki’s and a nice dress shirt. Women should wear a nice business suit with either a skirt or slacks. The rule of thumb is to dress conservatively. Do not wear hats, hooded sweatshirts, pajamas, tank tops, flip flops, shorts, miniskirts, low-cut tops, pants that fall below your waistline, jeans, untied sneakers, T-shirts or anything dirty, holey or with patches. Any clothing regarding sex, violence, cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol should never be worn to a court of law. If you have any visible facial piercings, it is better to cover them up. Tattoos with naked body parts, swear words, drug or alcohol references, or violence should also be covered. Wear little jewelry as possible. A nice, modest watch will suffice.

It is generally important to be clean cut and pleasant in appearance. Get a haircut, shave and clean yourself up. Think of it as a date. Your biggest concern on a date is to impress your partner. In court, you biggest concern is to impress the judge or jury. You want the judge and jury to “like you” without having to “know you.” Presenting like the boy or girl next door is the best approach. Jurors are typically older and have a harder time attributing a crime to someone who may look like their grandson or granddaughter.

In addition to the clothes you wear, how you act can also make an impression in court. Always stand up straight when talking to the judge and look him or her directly in the eye. Lack of eye contact is often an indicator as to whether or not you are lying under oath. Speak loudly so that the judge can hear you. Answer any and all questions with “yes, sir,” or “yes, ma’am,” do not just nod your head. Do not mumble. If you are unable to hear what the judge is saying, do not respond with “huh?” Ask the judge politely if he or she can repeat the question.

Other key tips include: arriving on time for your court date, being respectful of everyone involved in the case, including lawyers, clerks, judges and witnesses, and taking responsibility for your actions. If you are guilty of the crime in question and the evidence against you is strong, there isn’t much you can do. How you dress and act in court won’t save you from having to accept the consequences of your actions.

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