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   What You Must Know as a Defendant
Charged with a Crime

by Ira Still, Esquire
South Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

Courtroom Demeanor


Article Summary:

You need to have a basic understanding of how your case begins, proceeds and ends inside the criminal court process.  You may feel confused, like an outsider on your own case.  You have so many questions and no place to turn for answers.  That is, not until now.  The author is a seasoned criminal defense lawyer who has written this article from his vast experience to guide you while you are trying to win your case by modulating your courtroom demeanor for ultimate success.


The word demeanor is a word that isn't used as much today as it was in years gone by.  Whenever we see a word that isn't used often we can react in one of two ways.  We can unwisely disregard it, or we can try to understand its meaning in order to apply it to our lives for our best success.  If we look the word up in the Dictionary, we see that demeanor is defined as "outward behavior; conduct; deportment; and manner."  Why would courtroom demeanor have any affect on the outcome of my case?  Are my inner thoughts and beliefs causing me to act or behave in a way that is hurtful to me?   Does the way that I act, look and behave cause other people to treat me negatively?  Do I really want to win my case?  Let's talk about it. 

At War with the Police, Prosecution and the Court?

After years of interviewing defendants who have been facing serious criminal charges, one common thread that seems to run through these cases is that defendants often feel as though they are at war with the police.  At some juncture in their lives the model of the policeman as friend switched to the policeman as enemy. The role of the police never actually changed.  In 1840, 1920 and 2010 the role of police is the same: to stop crime and arrest suspects.  What did change was the defendant's perception of the role of the police. 

The defendant adopted lifestyle behavior that placed him in the spotlight as a suspect of whatever crime was reported and in the process of being investigated.  He was in the wrong place, with the wrong people at the wrong time.

Very often defendants in a Court case also feel that they are at war with the prosecutor.  They are convinced that the State is taking the case personally against them.  In this regard, defendants are generally mistaken and have the wrong perspective.  Their errant thinking pits the State against themselves in some kind of a personal battle.  While this is very real within the defendant's mind, it has no significance in real life.

Defendants also feel that Judges and Courts are at odds with them on a personal level.  They certainly must be "out to get me." These innermost feelings give most defendants a wrong perspective on the trial process and on the criminal justice system.  Without the advice of competent counsel, defendants generally get off on the wrong track as they try to navigate through the trial process.

The Real Role of the Police, Prosecution and the Court

Actually, police are under a legal duty to arrest persons whenever there is probable cause to believe that they might have committed a crime.  The police cannot turn a blind eye.  They cannot walk away and forget about the incident.  Being under a legal duty means that police are not permitted to back down but they must arrest the suspect.  They are required to get the suspect under control, taken to jail and booked for the crime that is charged.

The prosecutor's job is to prove beyond reasonable doubt the State's case using witness testimony and real or physical evidence.  Crimes are broken down into the elements of the crime.  Each element must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.  The prosecutor's focus is on meeting the State's burden of proof.

The Judge's job is to provide a fair and honest forum for the trial of the charges.  The Judge rules on the admissibility of the evidence while the jury decides credibility, reliability and believability of the evidence.  Is the witness trying to testify to what he heard someone else say?  That is an argument that only the Judge can decide.  Was the witness lying?  That is an argument that must be directed to the Jury rather than the Judge.

The American Dream allows us to change our Demeanor

Once arrested, the defendant often enters the Court process overcome by embarrassment, frustration and anger.  If left unchecked, these emotions will continue to fester until they destroy that person.  Rather than being overcome by embarrassment, frustration and anger, the defendant needs to understand what is actually taking place inside the Courtroom in order to be able to adequately cope with the process.

There is an old adage that says:  "If you want your life to change, you have to change!" When a person is charged with a crime what he/she must do is to take a good look at their life and their behavior.  What are your innermost feelings about life and the interaction with others?  When a person becomes an accused in the criminal justice system, their life, behavior and beliefs may need to radically change.  If that is so, then the only thing that can bring about that change is the person themselves.  Maybe it is time for a renewal.  Perhaps it is time to stop and start: to stop the old behavior and start over again.  People in this country are always permitted to start over again or turn over a new sheet of paper on which to write the rest of their life.  That incredible miraculous ability is called the American DreamIn order to win at trial, you may need to remake yourself.

Judges in the Criminal Division of the Courts often have 150 cases on their docket in the morning.  A few of those cases will get mercy, a second chance to help the defendant get back on track.  A few of those cases will get the Court's wrath for the horrid acts they committed without any remorse.  Most of the cases get the average treatment.  The goal is to be the case today that receives special treatment and the Judge's full favor.

Dressing for Court is Dressing for Success

During your numerous Court hearings, observe how others come to Court.  You will see the lawyers who have well groomed hair, a dark suit, white shirt, necktie and shined shoes.  They stand up when addressed by the Judge.  They speak politely, firmly, clearly and with fine language.  That is actually the best model for you to follow, if you want to be accepted well by the Court who holds the power over your future.  There is a time and place for the casual look, but that is simply not acceptable in Court!


  • Dress conservatively in clean business attire;
  • Get a fresh haircut for Court;
  • Stand up and speak clearly and intelligently in response to the Judge's questions;
  • Say "Yes, your Honor" or "No, your Honor;"
  • Be respectful--Be courteous--Be polite;
  • Be attentive and ready for your case to be called;
  • Definitely turn off your cell phone and any other electronics;
  • Be on your best behavior at all times...you don't know who is watching you;
  • Take notes of questions or comments you have for your attorney


  • Don't sleep in Court!
  • Don't disrupt the proceedings by talking or laughing out loud!
  • Don't read a newspaper!
  • Don't make faces or gestures toward the Jury!
  • Don't slouch in your chair!

Following these suggestions will pay big dividends for the outcome of your case.  This is your case.  It is not your lawyer's case or your relative's case or the person paying for your defense's case.  It is your case and yours alone.  You will either give yourself every opportunity to be victorious, or you will lose and head to a place that you wish you didn't have to spend time in.  The choice is yours.  Grow up, stand up and make the right choices to achieve victory through proper Courtroom Demeanor.


For more helpful information on success strategies for a person charged with a crime, contact

Ira Still, Esquire
Email:          ira@istilldefendliberty.com
Web:           http://www.istilldefendliberty.com/
Info Blog:     http://istilldefendliberty.blogspot.com/

Ira Still has been a criminal defense trial lawyer in Florida for over 30 years.  He successfully represents his clients on all crimes and in all courts.  Ira has had many, many jury trials and is well known in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale as a very successful trial and appellate lawyer. He has argued death penalty collateral appeals in the Florida Supreme Court and in various District Courts of Appeal.  He has filed briefs in the United States Supreme Court.  Ira has tried high profile cases such as police shooting the wrong person; persons charged with shooting police; capital murder and capital sexual battery; multiple homicides, violent crimes; drug trafficking; and virtually every other criminal charge.  Ira is also an author, speaker, teacher, mentor and coach.

© 2009.  The Law Offices of Ira Still