When it comes to court hearings, people typically focus on defense strategies, such as challenging procedures used during the arrest, and refuting the prosecution's version of events. However, your physical appearance—especially your choice of attire—is also an important consideration. While the United States is one of the few countries where defendants have a great deal of flexibility in their dress, judges can still throw you out for dressing inappropriately.
How to Dress for Court in New Jersey
Most courts list dress code requirements on their website, but you can also ask the court clerk and your attorney about appropriate clothing options. As a general rule, you should avoid “street” wear such as baggy pants, t-shirts, skimpy tops and clothing with obscene messages. Keep in mind that your clothes indicate your sense of respect for the judicial system, which makes a good impression on the judge and jurors. First impressions are very important regardless of the issues surrounding your case.
Men should dress in suits, or blazers and slacks in neutral colors, such as black, grey or brown. Many women choose to wear dresses or dress suits, but dress slacks are perfectly fine when paired with a conservative blouse or sweater. You should avoid wearing anything that draws unnecessary attention, such as loud colors and bold patterns. This also means that you should not overdress; wearing a black tie ensemble or a cocktail dress can rub jurors the wrong way, and seem just as disrespectful to the court as being too casual.
Other Important Tips to Consider When Dressing for Court
- The shoes are just as important as the clothes. Open-toed shoes such as sandals and flip-flops are generally banned from the courtroom, and sneakers—while not banned—can come across as too casual. Men should wear clean, polished dress shoes, such as oxfords and loafers in conservative colors. Women should stick to low to mid-length heeled pumps or boots without ornamentation or flashy designs.
- Remove any piercings and cover up tattoos as much as possible. In addition to conservative dress, your overall appearance should be as conservative as possible. Tattoos and piercings can come across as non-conformist, which is not the impression you want to give when attempting to prove your innocence.
- Remove your hat inside the courtroom. Although you can wear a hat inside the courthouse, you must remove it once you enter the courtroom.
- Avoid wearing too much jewelry. Wearing too much jewelry is distracting and distasteful to most people, so it's a good idea to wear one or two pieces only, such as your wedding ring, and a simple pair of earrings or necklace. Flashy jewelry, such as heavily encrusted pendants and loud, chunky bracelets can also come across as distracting and distasteful.
Need Representation for Your Upcoming Court Hearing?
If you need to appear in court for a criminal matter in a New Jersey municipal or superior court, speak with the experienced trial lawyers of Villani & DeLuca. Our attorneys have 100 combined years of experience in representing clients at every level of the New Jersey courts system. They will address all of your concerns about proper court etiquette, and give you a full explanation of the procedures that will be used at your hearing. Please call (732) 709-7757 to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.