Appearing In Colorado Criminal Courts – How To Dress To Be Believed
08/12/2015 Appearing In Colorado Criminal Courts – How To Dress To Be Believed – Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyers have the responsibility to make certain their clients and witnesses understand the unwritten rules on how to dress for court. Few lawyers think about the impact of improper dress on Judges and Juries during court proceedings.
It is, however, very well known to trial lawyers that “perception is reality” in court. As you walk through the courtroom doors- how you look may be critically important to achieving the best possible result.
It is equally well known in the strange environment of the courtroom – that jurors notice every detail of the Defendant or witness appearing before them – this includes the lawyers themselves.
Is the Defendant married, if not – why not; is he wealthy or poor; who is that with him? His wife? His girlfriend? His mistress? Why is he staring at us – why is he perspiring so heavily? Why is his hair dirty? What IS that on his neck? Is that a tattoo? What is it? What are those things in his ears? and on and on.
A jury makes the tabloids look tame by comparison. Trust me – everything matters to them. Details are important.
The Impact Of “Non-Verbal Communication” In Court
I have personally spoken to several hundred jurors over my three decades plus in the courtrooms of Colorado. Jurors will tell you that from the second you come into their view – they are sizing you up. These judgments may not always be conscious – they can be completely unconscious. Nonetheless the judgments are very real.
Judges sentencing in short term cases make the most frequent judgments on those people that appear in their courtrooms. First impressions are important. Such things as cut offs, sunglasses (on any part of the head), hats, caps and especially gum – ALL send the wrong message – messages of disrespect.
It is a disaster if the judge or his clerk or bailiff ask that you remove ANYTHING during a court appearance.
The message you want to send in everything that you do and say – is that you take your case seriously and that you have respect for the Court and the Court’s proceedings.
If you want the judge and the jury to believe you – if you want them to think you are a sincere and honest person – don’t flop to the witness stand wearing your flip flops and tank tops.
Your politics or religious leanings need not appear emblazoned on your t-shirts.
No “sagging” (if that is still the style). No pants or clothes that expose undergarments of any kind.
No loud garish advertisements for Under Armour or Nike.
No trendy “statement” clothes, jewelry or accessories. Learning The Unwritten “Rules” Of Dressing For Court.
The Most Basic Guidelines For Dressing In Court Should Come From Your Own Lawyer
Asking whether your lawyer whether he or she agrees with you clothing decisions is perfectly appropriate.
The Basic Basics
In very brief terms – If you will appear in Court in any capacity – dress as if you are going to a religious service or a job interview.
Males should wear a suit with a tie and a dress shirt. If these kind of formal clothes are not available – then dress pants and a sports coat (dress casual) is equally impressive. While I always prefer a suit, they are not required. Business casual can also mean slacks a solid color polo shirt.
For women a nice dress or a woman’s business suit is a good choice. In the alternative – a plain and conservative top and long slacks will also work.
Clothes for both men and women should not be showy but rather classic, modest, pressed and clean. They should always fit well. The clothes you wear need not be brand new but they should not be “way out” of style.
Clean, neat and professional is the key. If you have to come directly from work, leave a change of clothes in your car and change in the courthouse bathrooms. Your assigned courtroom is not the place to make a fashion statement, to show off your new (or old) tattoos, your cool piercings etc.
The “Grandmother Says” Rule
If your grandmother would object to the item of clothing, jewelry, etc. in question – change it (the Judge is probably a grandmother or grandfather!)
What Follows Is A Detailed List Of The Most Common Recommendations By Sex: (there is obviously overlap between the genders)
In addition to the suggestions above – I would recommend the following:
No hats or baseball type caps – in fact no advertisements for music bands or other sporting teams of any kind.
No dark glasses, (even if they are prescription unless medically necessary).
No male “bling” such as men’s nose rings, lip or tongue piercings. As for male jewelry – along those same lines – wear one ring such as a wedding band (if you are married). Your watch should be modest. Almost all other male jewelry should be eliminated.
No blue jeans
No tennis shoes, no sandals or any form of “flip flops” including Birkenstock type shoes
Tailed shirts need to be tucked in if possible.
Men’s Hair: Men’s hair will needs to be combed, groomed and neat. Long hair should be cut or neatly pulled back into a ponytail. Facial hair should be neatly trimmed shave closely.
No form fitting or tight-fitting clothes.
No sleeveless tops.
No shorts or t-shirts.
Shoes: No sandals, no spike heels, no combat boots, no open-toed shoes (and try not to wear overly expensive shoes). Shoes can be “dressy” and modest heels are fine. Flats are ok as long as they are dressy; heeled boots are fine but no flip flops or sneakers. The shoes should be high quality but common enough for most of those on the jury.
No low-cut or overly loud or patterned blouses
Skirts: No short skirts – knee level (or no more than one inch above the knee).
Colors: No overly loud colors (beige, gray or blue suits make the person more approachable.) witness.
Dresses: No latex dresses, “no little black dresses,” no curiously high slit – no “clubbing” clothes.
Hair, Jewelry – Makeup and Accessories
Hair: Aim for classic, conservative hair and makeup. Hair should always be neatly groomed. If you have long hair it pull it back from the face. This conveys professionalism.
Fingernails: Natural hair and nail color… nothing radical.
Jewelry: Do NOT over – accessorize. Too much jewelry distracts the court from the important thing – the witnesses’ testimony. No rhinestone belts, no glittering jewelry, No diamond studded bracelets, no large earrings, nothing that sparkles, glitters, or moves.
Skin: The rule? – show as little as possible. It does not help your testimony. No exposed shoulders or exposed arms if possible. Make sure blouses are buttoned up. Never show too much cleavage.
Perfume: Don’t overdo it. Some perfume is wonderful but it should not be overpowering.
Applicable To Both Genders
No political statements – No political buttons, no special club pins, no college rings, little or no religious jewelry. All may lead to judgments or reveal prejudices by the judge or jury.
Wear Clothing That Fits: Nothing too tight or to too baggy.
Wear Reasonably Priced Clothing: Do NOT wear extremely expensive clothes. The jury panel will resent your wearing clothes they cannot afford.
Nails: (Male or Female) Manicures for women – clear nail beds for men. If you bite your nails – file them and make sure they are clean.
Hygiene Issues: Shower (men shave- no “scruffy look” Hygiene is important. Do not smell like cigarettes. Hair should be clean. Look as clean cut, honest and trustworthy as is possible using a conservative’s view of those terms.
Tats – Piercings – Tattoos and/or piercings, should be covered (tattoos) or if possible taken out. Judges and juries will not take you seriously if you are covered in one, the other, or both. With face piercings, consider using a “piercing filler” or “retainer” while you are testifying.
Loose change should be removed from your pockets.
Cell Phones – I-pads – Laptops – Quite simply – turn them off and put them away. Do NOT text! If a call is necessary – and you can do this outside the presence of the jury – leave the courtroom and make a brief call in the hallway.
Last Minute Changes .. Are Not Only Possible, They Are Recommended
Last minute changes can happen with the advice of your lawyer. It is better to obtain a brief continuance for you to change clothes or remove piercings rather than offending the judge or jury
Appearing In Colorado Criminal Courts – How To Dress To Be Believed
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: H. Michael Steinberg – Email The Author at email@example.com – A Denver Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer – or call his office at 303-627-7777 during business hours – or call his cell if you cannot wait and need his immediate assistance – 720-220-2277. Attorney H. Michael Steinberg is passionate about criminal defense. His extensive knowledge and experience of Colorado Criminal Law gives him the edge you need to properly handle your case.
You must make a responsible choice for a Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer – we encourage you to look at our firm. Over the last 30 plus years – H. Michael has mastered nearly every area of criminal law, procedure, trial and courtroom practice and he is passionate about getting you the best result in your case. He has written, and continues to write, extensively on Colorado criminal law and he hopes this article helps you in some small way – Appearing In Colorado Criminal Courts – How To Dress To Be Believed.