In Texas, we have a variety of courts, including: district courts, county courts, county courts at law, probate courts, justice of the peace courts, and municipal courts.
Where Will My Case be Handled?
Generally, most criminal cases in the state are handled in the county courts (Class A and Class B misdemeanors), and in the district courts (felony criminal cases). On the other hand, if a defendant has violated a federal law, he or she will be prosecuted in federal court.
If you are facing state or criminal charges in Dallas, you will be required to appear in court. Regardless of which court you’re scheduled to appear in, the rules for proper courtroom etiquette are the same, and it’s important to familiarize yourself with them.
How Should I Behave in Court?
Whenever we represent a client, we always go over the basics of courtroom etiquette before their first courtroom appearance – this is standard procedure for all defense attorneys. Why is this so important?
A simple mistake on your part can offend the judge and set the wrong tone for your case from that point forward; the opposite of what you want! You’d be surprised, but a fresh haircut, a respectful attitude, and a suit can go a long way in the courtroom.
In contrast, a white T-shirt and baggy jeans, a ringing cellphone, and a bad attitude will not only upset the judge, he or she will have no reason to be lenient with you, and that would defeat the whole purpose of showing up in court.
Before you head to court for your first or next court appearance, be sure to memorize these rules of proper courtroom etiquette:
- Please leave your children at home
- If you need one, get a haircut
- Make sure your hair looks nice
- Dress in your Sunday Best, as if you’re attending church or interviewing for a bank job
- Show up to court early
- Don’t chew gum in court
- Shut off your cellphone before entering the courtroom
- Be polite and respectful to your attorney, the prosecutor, the judge, and the courtroom staff
- Stand whenever the judge enters or leaves the room
- Always address the judge as “Your Honor”
- When asked a yes or no question, finish with “sir” or “ma’am”
- If you have a question, direct it to the bench, not the prosecutor
- NEVER interrupt or talk over the judge
- If the judge wants to interrupt you, stop talking
- Do not smirk, chuckle, or act smug
If you want the best possible outcome from your court appearances, begin by implementing the above advice. It seems incredibly simple, yet a nice outfit, a polished appearance, and a respectful attitude can make all the difference in the outcome of your criminal case.