If you are have been convicted of a crime and are facing court, it is important that you have appropriate courtroom decorum. One of the things you need to understand is when and if it is appropriate to speak when in the courtroom. In general, your attorney will speak on your behalf and will instruct you not to say anything. However, there are a few situations when you will be able to speak.
When You Enter a Plea
When you are first brought into court, you will be entering your plea. You will typically discuss your plea with your attorney ahead of time. When you enter the courtroom, the judge will ask you what your plea is. You will then enter your plea of guilty or not guilty, depending on whatever deals you may have worked out with the prosecutor. Always remember to address the judge as "Your Honor" when you are entering your plea.
When Your Are Testifying Under Oath
Another time when you are permitted to speak during your court appearance is when or if you are testifying under oath. This is the time when you will be questioned about your case by both your attorney and the prosecutor. Many times, attorneys will advise their clients not to testify, but the decision is ultimately up to you. If you choose to testify, you should answer questions with short, direct answers. Avoid going too far into answering a question or getting emotional on the stand, as that could possibly incriminate you further.
When You Are Addressing the Judge or the Victim
If you are found guilty of your charge, you will have the opportunity to speak when you are being sentenced. This is usually done before the sentence is handed down. During this time, you will read a written statement, which most defendants write with the help of their attorney. This is a time when you can ask the judge for leniency or request a lighter sentence. You can also take this opportunity to speak directly to those who were victimized by your criminal act. You may want to offer an apology, explanation, or words of remorse.
Because of the complexity of criminal law and its application in the courtroom, attorneys are often concerned that you could unintentionally incriminate yourself. If you will be making a court appearance, be sure to work closely with your attorney if you are expecting to speak
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