As a South Florida criminal defense lawyer with over 30 years of courtroom experience, I’ve seen thousands of criminal defendants come through the South Florida courts. Since the South Florida court system does not impose an officially sanctioned dress code for defendants appearing in court, I’ve seen defendants wear a variety of glaringly inappropriate clothing to court including jeans worn so baggy as to intentionally expose the defendant’s underwear, a man wearing a t-shirt that said “F*** the Po Po,” and a woman in hair curlers, bedroom slippers, and shower cap (perhaps this woman had heard that judges wore robes to court and was trying to fit in, but just got a little confused about the whole judicial robe thing).
A criminal defendant’s choice of clothing can change the judge and jury’s perceptions of him, since judgments about the defendant’s trustworthiness, intelligence, honesty, and morals are often subconsciously based on the defendant’s appearance and clothing. As a criminal defendant, the stakes could not be any higher; after all, a conviction means you could lose your freedom, livelihood, reputation in the community, and even your life. If wearing a certain type of clothing to court could help you make a better impression on the judge and jury, why wouldn’t you choose to dress that way? It takes the same amount of time to put on a professional and respectful-looking outfit as it does a t-shirt with profanity on it or another piece of inappropriate clothing. Whatever your personal clothing preferences may be, suck it up and as they say, “Suit up and show up.”
As a general rule, criminal defendants should dress for a court appearance the same way they would for a religious service or a job interview at a conservative office. For men, a dark suit, a pressed white dress shirt, and simple tie is typically your best bet. For women, wear a conservative suit or dress slacks or a skirt and a nice blouse with sleeves. None of these items should be too short, tight, low-cut, or trendy.
Dressing conservatively also means that your clothes, accessories, and appearance shouldn’t do anything to unnecessarily draw attention to yourself. This means that you should not wear: bright colors or crazy patterns, noticeable perfume, heavy makeup, conspicuous hairstyles, flashy jewelry, expensive items, designer labels, or anything else that would be considered a distraction. For example, if you have been charged with drug trafficking and money laundering, the courtroom is not the right occasion to don your $5,000 bespoke Italian suit, diamond Rolex, and Hermes tie. Let’s just say that the judge and jury are going to most likely be a little biased when you saunter into the courtroom flaunting your wealth, looking like some sort of drug lord king pin. So save your flashy outfit for your acquittal bash (here’s hoping!).
If you’re incarcerated at the time of your court appearance, it’s your constitutional right to elect to not wear your prison uniform (usually a bright orange jumpsuit in Florida) during your court appearance. In most cases, either your lawyer or a family member will bring you your civilian clothing to change into on the day of your court appearance.
Are you facing criminal charges in South Florida? If so, the Miami and Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Galanter Law can provide you with experienced and knowledgeable legal representation. From advising you on what to wear at your court appearances to evaluating your potential defenses, Yale L. Galanter and his team of attorneys will do everything in their power to potentially get you charges reduced or dismissed altogether, where possible.
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