As a witness, it is essential to note that your testimony is not the only thing under scrutiny. Judges, attorneys, and the attending public will also be paying close attention to how you say it. By learning how to present yourself in a courtroom, you will be in a prime position to give a great testimony and confidently answer any questions you are asked. Below are nine courtroom etiquette tips to get you started.
1. Dress Well
You should always attend court in appropriate dress, whether you are a witness or not. It is twice as important for witnesses to appear clean and well-groomed. Ideally, you should dress in formal clothes. These include conservative dresses/skirts, well-pressed dress pants, suits, collared pants, and professional blouses. Avoid hats and rugged wear. If you fancy a casual look, stay away from loud colors, and ensure the length of the blouse, shirt or skirt you pick is reasonable.
2. Be Courteous
Courts are revered places, and you don’t want to be censured for contempt. So, avoid any behaviors that could attract attention to yourself. These include laughing loudly, speaking out of turn, or using unprofessional language. It is also advisable to arrive early and sit in place until you are called to take the stand. Above all, don’t chew gum.
3. Tell the Truth and Nothing But
As a witness, you are in court to give an accurate account of events. You are not there to share your opinions or someone else’s story. Purpose to listen to and understand every question you are asked and respond as truthfully as possible. If you don’t understand any question, politely ask for clarification. It also won’t hurt to say “I do not know” when you aren’t sure of a specific detail or question.
4. Only Answer What You’re Asked
However big the temptation is, avoid giving any information you aren’t explicitly asked for. Instead, think of the testimony as an interview and follow the attorneys’ lead.
5. Do Not Interrupt Anyone
Everyone has their moment in court. As such, do not talk over someone else, even if they misrepresent your story or start talking over you. Instead, let them finish what they have to say and ask for a chance to speak afterward.
6. Avoid Talking in Absolutes
Every word you speak can be used against you in court, so it is best not to speak in absolutes unless you are sure of what you are saying. Instead of saying things like “that is the whole truth,” say, “that’s all I can remember.”
7. Correct Your Mistakes as Soon as You Can
Human is to err, and appearing before the court can unnerve you to the point of misspeaking. This is perfectly normal and won’t affect your testimony if you correct the mistake as soon as possible. For legal purposes, you should always seek permission before making the corrections. It is also good to give your reasons for making a mistake, even when you’re not outrightly asked to do it.
8. Maintain Your Composure
The attorneys questioning you will try to lower your credibility in every way. They will ask you questions and try to trigger your sensitivities. The court may censure you if you catch their bait and lose your temper. So, always maintain control over your emotions and try your best to answer every question calmly and respectfully.
9. Respect the Court Process
Remember to maintain your etiquette even after you give your testimony and leave the courtroom. As a rule of thumb, discussing an ongoing court case is frowned upon, so avoid sharing your experience on the stand or giving your opinion on the case. Instead, wait until the case is fully concluded. All said, testifying in court is not something to be afraid of. You can consult your attorney or the attorney who issued the subpoena to you and seek answers to any questions you may have.
By following the above tips, you will not only have a great experience in court but also look more credible and reliable while giving testimonies.
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