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Do’s and Don’ts – How to Behave in Court during Your DUI Trial

DUI lawyer los angeles

Wondering what to say in court for DUI? Read this article.

You may not be able to control the outcome of your DUI trial, but you can control how you look and what you say in court. If you’ve never been arrested, it’s important you heed basic “Do’s and Don’ts” of the courtroom-especially as they pertain to you, the defendant.

How to Look and Sound Your Best in Court

  • Appearance: An experienced DUI defense attorney will defend your character as a way to minimize penalties. Make sure you look the part of the upstanding citizen. Wear clean, pressed business attire free of stains with appropriate footwear. For example, a man might want to wear a suit. At the very least, slacks with a button down dress shirt and tie. A woman might wear a skirt or slacks with a nice blouse. As a general rule, you want to dress conservatively and professionally-leave the flip flops and tank tops at home. You might have a unique sense of style outside of the courtroom, but tattoos, piercings, and funky hairstyles may be viewed as obscene. Cover and/or remove them to present yourself as orderly as possible. Remember, you’re being accused of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is serious. Put your best face forward.
  • Manner of speech: It may not be your normal way of speaking, but answering all questions with, “Yes/no, sir” or “ma’am” will convey the level of respect you have for the court and all individuals involved in your case. Address the judge as “Your Honor.” Thank them for their time. If you think you might have misunderstood a question or statement, don’t say, “What was that?” Instead say something like, “Your Honor, I did not understand the question. Would you please clarify?” Finally, do not raise your voice, curse, or use slang. Speak as you would at a job interview.
  • Body language: Sit up straight in your chair. Resist the urge to cross your arms as it is often perceived as a defensive action. It might not be appropriate to smile, however, try and maintain a neutral facial expression to avoid looking angry and hostile. Stand when speaking to the judge and have a seat when you’re finished. Maintain eye contact and avoid using exaggerated hand gestures. When in doubt, follow your attorney’s lead. Remember you are there to present yourself in the best possible light-nonverbal communication is just as important as what you say.
  • General demeanor: Even if you plead not guilty, treat the charges seriously and maintain respect for the law. Now is not the time to go off on a political tirade about why you think DUI checkpoints are unconstitutional. DUI is a serious offense that can cause lasting emotional and physical damage. Approach your court appearances with the understanding that most judges have seen and heard it all. You are there to calmly and rationally state your case against a serious conviction.

Other Tips on How to Behave in Court

Be early or on time for your court appearances. Do not eat, drink, or chew gum. Some judges may be stricter than others and while your DUI attorney should be familiar with your particular judge’s style, it’s best to err on the side of caution by being completely respectful at all times.

The judicial system says you are innocent until proven guilty; however, it’s helpful to approach your case from the reverse viewpoint. Your job is to “sell yourself” to the court to solidify your attorney’s character statements. If you still have doubts about how to act or what to say in court, consult your DUI attorney before trial.

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Article Updated: August 2019

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