5 Things You Shouldn't Say to a Criminal Judge
A judge can make or break your criminal case, so you should really watch what you say in his or her presence.
While you probably know well enough that you don't have to answer police questions, you will have to answer to a judge.
Here are five things all defendants will want to avoid saying to a criminal judge:
1. 'I Did It.'
Most judges will try to ignore spontaneous confessions from criminal defendants, but remember not to confess to a criminal judge. Although many criminal judges will offer help to clueless defendants, they are neutral third parties who are not working for your interests. And everything you say to a judge in open court is recorded and can be used against you.
You have a constitutional right not to incriminate yourself before a judge, so save the "I did it" for your defense attorney.
2. 'They Didn't Tell Me...'
Judges hear and see unprepared defendants every day, and you should not tell a judge that either the court staff or another official didn't tell you to bring a document or required form on your court date.
You even may be brought in on a bench warrant because you failed to follow the court's orders. Don't make excuses and blame others. Be contrite and apologetic.
Cursing and screaming at a judge will get you nowhere. In fact, hurling obscenities or giving a judge the finger may even get you thrown in jail for contempt.
If you're already facing jail or prison on a criminal charge, don't make it worse by adding contempt of court to your criminal record.
4. Lies, Lies, Lies.
Lying in court is almost always a crime (i.e., perjury). If you don't feel like answering a question posed to you by a judge, speak to your attorney before answering, but never lie.
Lies under oath can lead to perjury charges, even if you aren't the defendant. For example, George Zimmerman's now-estranged wife Shellie was arrested for perjury after she lied to a judge about the couple's financial situation.
5. 'I Will Represent Myself.'
It's often said that a man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. Translation: being your own lawyer in a criminal case is the worst idea, in most situations. Because your freedom could be on the line if you're convicted, it's usually best to have professional legal assistance on your side.
You may be entitled to a public defender if you cannot afford an attorney, but otherwise, seek out and hire an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.
- Courtroom Etiquette 101: Speaking to Judges (FindLaw's Strategist)
- How to Change Your Public Defender (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Barry Bonds Perjury: Lying Under Oath is a Crime (FindLaw's Blotter)
- 5 Signs You May Have Ineffective Counsel (FindLaw's Blotter)
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
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