Jill Kolodner | July 5, 2020 | Maryland Law
Even though people should not judge you based on your appearance, appearances can make a difference in court. Judges and jurors are human. It can be difficult not to allow our impressions about a person’s attire to impact our assumptions about that person.
Therefore, what you wear to court is important. Whether you are defending yourself against criminal charges or appearing in a personal injury case, your clothing can make a difference in the outcome of your case. What you wear to traffic court and bankruptcy court also matters, even though the hearings may be less formal in some cases.
Your attorney can help you choose an outfit for your day in court. However, below are some general guidelines for courtroom attire.
What Should I Avoid Wearing to Court?
Before we discuss some of the general guidelines for courtroom attire, let’s review a list of clothing options that are never appropriate for a courtroom.
Most courts in Maryland have a dress code. You will not be allowed inside the courtroom if you violate the dress code. Being sent home by the court to change clothing is not a good way to begin a hearing or trial.
Clothing that you should avoid when appearing in court include:
- sleeveless shirts
- flip flops
- revealing clothing
- tight clothing
- exercise clothing
- crop tops
- tops with spaghetti straps
- t-shirts with suggestive or offensive language or images
- athletic attire
- high-heel shoes
- tennis shoes/sneakers, and
- jeans (unless that is the only pair of pants you own).
In general, you want to avoid clothing that is too casual or too formal. Designer dresses or a two thousand dollar suit can hurt your case too. It is best to stick to something business casual or an outfit you’d wear to church.
If you would not wear the outfit to a professional meeting or church service, it is probably not suitable for court. On the other hand, if the outfit is too dressy to wear to the doctor’s office or an appointment at your child’s school, it might be too dressy for court.
Recommendations for Court Attire for Women
Women need to avoid wearing suggestive clothing. Conservative clothing is best. Instead of wearing a short miniskirt or dress, choose a dress or skirt that comes down to your knees or below.
Your pants should not be too tight. A modest pair of dress pants is a better choice. Tops should cover your midsection, shoulders, and cleavage.
Recommendations for Court Attire for Men
As with women’s attire for court, you want your clothing to be professional and neat. A business suit is a good option for men. If you do not have a suit, a long-sleeve dress shirt and dress pants are another good option.
Avoid tight clothing. If the only pair of pants you have are jeans, make sure that they are clean, fit correctly, and do not have any holes or tears.
Other Tips for Appearing in Court
In addition to your clothing, you also want to be careful with your accessories. Remove body piercings and cover tattoos. Women should opt for conservative makeup and nail choices.
If possible, get a conservative haircut. You want to appear neat and clean in court. Avoid using strong perfumes and lotions.
Avoid smoking cigarettes in your court clothing. Also, you should never smell like marijuana or alcohol when entering a courtroom.
If there is any doubt about what to wear to court, talk to your lawyer. Your lawyer can guide you on what to wear to court. If necessary, wear the outfit to your attorney’s office for an opinion.
Remember Courtroom Conduct Rules
Your conduct in the courtroom is critical to the outcome of your case. Outbursts during court can result in your removal from the courtroom. In some cases, you could be charged with contempt of court.
The jurors are watching you. Making faces, rolling your eyes, or sneering at witnesses is not helpful to your case.
The other side is going to say things that you do not like to hear. You may disagree with the testimony presented by the other side. Try to keep your emotions in check and allow your lawyer to deal with the testimony on cross-examination.
In most cases, you want to appear to be calm and focused. Crying and trying to gain sympathy from the jury may be viewed negatively by some jurors. Likewise, acting aloof and distant can be viewed negatively by some jurors.
Learn from Your Attorney’s Experience
Your attorney can coach you in how to act during a hearing and trial. Listen to your attorney carefully and follow your attorney’s instructions. Your lawyer has extensive courtroom experience, so you can learn a great deal about the dos and don’ts of the courtroom that could increase your chance of success.