What to wear in Court for Criminal, DUI or Traffic cases
How should you dress and behave to get the best treatment during court appearances in Illinois criminal and DUI courts? First you need to remember...
Everyone sitting with you is unhappy, too
The first thing you need to realize is that nobody sitting in your position in Court, facing charges of driving under the influence (DUI), felony or misdemeanor criminal charges, or even traffic violations, is happy to be there. Your court date and time are not yours alone - if you're scheduled to appear at a specific time, in Cook, Lake or DuPage counties, that's the time the Court call starts. You are sitting with other worried defendants, anxious and inconvenienced friends and family, angry complaining witnesses and occasionally, court "watchers" there with a political agenda.
Court staff knows this, and like an anticipated blow, it can put courtroom deputies and clerks on edge. Courtesy and patience are your friends, and will distinguish you from everyone around you immediately. This is not a place you want to be though of as "just like everyone else". Courtroom personnel are not your personal enemy. Even the prosecutor most likely has nothing personal against you. They're all trying to get through their day with a minimum of fuss, just like you do when you go to work. On other hand, these are people with enormous power over your immediate future. Keep that in mind.
Dress for Court Success
Don't go to court looking like you are destitute, even if that is your reality. Your objective isn't to dazzle anyone, but to show appropriate respect. Confucius is credited with saying "Respect yourself and others will respect you," and that is definitely desirable in an Illinois criminal courtroom.
For Court, remember that a bit of formality never hurts in a setting where not too long ago in history, powdered wigs, professional court cryers and gavels were not uncommon. Try business casual. Women might wear a suit pant set or a blouse and skirt. Men are not required to wear a suit and tie, but khakis and a button down shirt or even a polo shirt with a collar would be appropriate. Do not wear any shirt with a slogan on it, particularly a slogan that is anti-law enforcement or that promotes a questionable issue. Men should leave their hats at home or be prepared to remove them upon entering the courthouse.
Electronic Devices in Court
Make sure your cell phone is turned off. If a cell phone rings or makes a noise in court the demeanor of a judge can change fairly fast.
When to Arrive for Court
It should go without saying that you should arrive on time, at least 15 minutes earlier than your scheduled court hearing. You are trying to defend yourself against a serious criminal charge, and you don't want to have to explain or justify tardiness on top of your DUI charges. Find out where to park ahead of time and plan for the security process at the courthouse door. Leave any sharp items at home or in your vehicle. You will be required to pass through a metal detector on your way into the courthouse. Thus, knives, scissors, fingernail clippers or anything that looks like it could be used as a weapon will be confiscated or you will be asked to return it to your vehicle.
Food, Drink and Kids
As a matter of respect for the judge and the court proceedings, do not attempt to bring food or chewing gum into the courtroom. Attorneys have been upbraided by judges with a pet peeve about gum - defendants cannot expect anything less.
If possible, leave infants and children at home as some judges will ask you to remove them if they are crying or creating a distraction. If you are asked to remove the children it would be inappropriate to leave them unattended in order to return to the courtroom for your hearing.
Getting to Court ... and Being Able to Leave After
If your driver's license has been suspended or revoked, do not drive to the courthouse. You should be aware that:
- you are probably committing a new violation of traffic or criminal laws;
- law enforcement officers are aware that sometimes people drive to court on suspended or revoked licenses, thus they monitor parking lots near courthouse facilities looking for suspended drivers; and
- if you are cited for driving on a suspended license, serious damage will likely result to your defense in the DUI case pending before the court.
- Judges do not appreciate when defendants scheduled to appear before them are late because they've been arrested. In court.
Lawyers do go First
If you have retained a lawyer in private practice their cases will generally be called first in accordance with local rules, thus chances are that you can plan to be out of court relatively quickly. If you have a public defender or if you are representing yourself, prepare to be patient. Your case may be called in alphabetical order. If you are not represented, you may have a chance to discuss your case with the prosecutor directly, but it's likely that you will have to wait until all of the attorneys, including the public defenders are done speaking with the prosecutor.
This is not a mere professional courtesy. It is done for the convenience of the Court and to facilitate moving the court call along as efficiently as possible. Private attorneys will typically walk into court with a plan and know a great deal more about the up to date status of their case than the public defender juggling far more cases on that call, or an unrepresented person with no idea how to navigate the legal system.
If you have a lawyer representing you, it's likely that they will speak to the judge on your behalf. If you are required to address the judge always do so with respect. It is safe to use the words “judge” or “your honor.”
The attorneys at Fagan, Fagan & Davis have defended countless clients against misdemeanor and felony criminal charges, DUI offenses and even traffic violations throughout the Chicago area courts, including those located in Cook County, DuPage County and Lake County.
Contact us now for a free consultation.