Courtroom Standards of Conduct in Arizona Courtrooms

by Aaron Black • January 23, 2020
Courtoom appearanceAnyone who has seen the movie My Cousin Vinnie has savored the sweet taste of etiquette in the courtroom, a hallowed place rich in tradition for administering Arizona and Constitutional justice. Obeying these standards is important for Arizona DUI and other criminal defendants.

A lot of these etiquette standards are basically common sense sprinkled with some esoteric rules that apply to defendants and visitors. (Witnesses are not allowed in the courtroom until called. They wait in the hall.)

When entering the courthouse everyone, along with briefcases and purses, is required to pass through a metal detector and in some cases searched.

How do I prepare for my Court Appearance?

Be sure you know which courtroom you need to be in and your case number to ensure you’re in the right place.

It’s crucial that defendants arrive at the courtroom on time. It’s best to arrive a half-hour before you’re supposed to be in court allowing time to prepare for the court appearance with your attorney and be sure to have any documents you need.

If you’re delayed but it’s not your fault, say a wreck on the freeway or a full parking lot, call your attorney so counsel can let the court know of the delay. Defendants who fail to appear in court result in a bench warrant for arrest issued by the judge.

Texting in court isn’t allowed so before entering the courthouse be sure to turn off your cell phones and other electronic devices to prevent disruption of the proceedings.

Weapons, even a pocketknife, are never allowed in the courthouse under any circumstances. Also prohibited in court are food, chewing gum, tobacco, vapes and reading newspapers, magazines or books.

First impressions are important for defendants so making an appearance in court can form the judge’s opinion of you and that can help or hurt your case.

In court, you need to wear clothes that are appropriate for a business setting, not casual attire such as open-toe shoes. I suggest to my clients that the men wear a coat and tie or even a suit and women choose a tasteful ensemble. Don’t wear clothes that have slogans or pictures and remove hats except for religious reasons, before entering the courtroom.

It’s also best to tame “wild” hairstyles.

How should I act in the Courtroom?

When the judge enters the courtroom a bailiff will give the command “all rise” to show respect for the judge and the criminal justice system. The judge will say “be seated.” Stand again when the judge leaves the bench. Standing also applies when the jurors enter and leave the courtroom.

Those attending court sessions must sit quietly, no whispering or talking because that can interfere with the court reporter who needs to hear clearly to make a transcript of what’s said during the session.

Children are allowed in Arizona courtrooms but it’s crucial that they be quiet. In instances of an unruly child, the situation can be resolved by having someone escort the child out of the courtroom.

In situations that the defendant needs to speak to the judge, such as entering a plea, always answer by addressing the court loud enough to be easily heard clearly saying “sir” or “ma’am” to demonstrate politeness but don’t say “judge.”

Tips: In standing up from the defense table to address the court, men please don’t put your hands in your pockets, and women leave your purse in the chair.

During your case use pen and paper to write notes to your attorney rather than speaking softly.

Self-discipline is a must. A court appearance is stressful and emotional but don’t let emotions flair by making gestures, facial expressions, or outbursts. That kind of behavior can be contempt of court. Be courteous and conscientious.

Penalties for Violating Etiquette Standards in the Courtroom

Misbehaving, as shown in the Cousin Vinnie movie, can earn you contempt of court charge that carries a fine and time in jail. And remember the judge who issues the contempt of court is the one who is deciding your fate in the criminal case. A real-life example is a teenage female spent five days in jail for displaying to the court an obscene hand gesture.

There are two types of contempt of Court.
  • Direct contempt of court – There was a direct is a violation in the courtroom
  • Indirect contempt of court – Indirect contempt of court happens outside of court
Contempt can be criminal or civil. Avoiding a contempt of court charge is simply observing etiquette standards.

Before meeting a client at the courthouse, I’ll coach them on the rules of etiquette so they can make a good first impression by showing respect for officers of the court and the procedures.

Free Confidential Legal Consultation

Obtaining competent legal representation is key in your defense and you have the right to consult with a defense attorney before making a hiring decision. I, like many other DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys, offer a free and confidential legal consultation.

I’ll listen to your side of the situation, and apply the applicable law to assess the strength of your defense and your options.

Contact the Phoenix DUI & Criminal Defense Attorney Aaron Black or call 480-729-1683 any time day or night including weekends and holidays, and I’ll promptly respond unless I’m in court.

I provide personalized legal services so you won’t be handed off to a paralegal and you’ll have my undivided attention in building your defense and aggressively defending you at all steps in the legal process.

I defend DUI and other criminal cases in Arizona’s justice, municipal, state and federal courts.
In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to inform clients and potential clients I am still available for consultations. I am always available by phone, text and/or email. We can also use Facetime for social distancing. The criminal justice system is not stopping due to COVID-19.

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