A court of law is supposed to be impartial, and operate solely on the facts – but humans are always going to be human beings, and appearances do matter. What you wear and how you look can definitely make a difference in the way the judge or the jury feels about you.
In fact, multiple studies have detected a correlation between a defendant’s personal appearance and both the likelihood of a guilty verdict and the severity of the sentence imposed with an emphasis on how “trustworthy” the defendant appeared. With that in mind, here are some tips:
What you should wear to court
You may have a distinct personal style, but this isn’t necessarily the right situation to showcase it. Conservative dress that helps you basically “blend in” is best.
A lot of times, defendants are told to wear what they might wear to a business meeting, a job interview, church or dinner in a nice restaurant, but even those instructions can still be misinterpreted.
For men, this generally means either a suit and tie or at least a long-sleeve, button-down shirt with a tie and long pants. Women should wear either a conservative dress, suit or a top and slacks. Jewelry and makeup should be kept to a minimum, nails should be clean and trimmed and neutral-colored. Make sure your hair is neatly groomed and cover any visible tattoos.
What you should never wear to court
Judges have tremendous authority in their courtrooms; some have even been known to refuse to hear a case if the defendant’s attire didn’t show enough decorum and respect for the judicial process.
To avoid antagonizing the court (and negatively affecting your case), you should:
- ● Never wear clothing that is tattered, dirty or ill-fitting
- ● Avoid attention-getting accessories, like lots of jewelry or extreme hairstyles
- ● Wear clothing or footwear that is more appropriate for home, the beach or a club, like open-toed shoes, sandals, stilettos, sportswear, t-shirts (especially those with obscenities or messages on them) or overly “sexy” skirts and tops.
If you have any doubts about what’s appropriate to wear, it never hurts to run your questions by your attorney. No matter what your situation, you want to present an appearance that is cool, collected and confident in your defense.