A Miami, Florida teen sentenced to 30 days in jail for contempt of court provided a text-book example of how a defendant’s indifference to courtroom etiquette can cause substantial harm to their case. It’s yet another example why defendants do best to have a criminal defense attorney represent them in courtroom procedures.
The 18-year-old defendant was in custody, appearing in court for a bond hearing on charges of possession of Xanax. When asked the value of jewelry she owned, the young woman laughed.
“It’s not a joke,” Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat told her.
Asked again, the woman said, “it is worth a lotta money.”
“Like what,” the judge asked.
“Like Rick Ross,” she said, alluding to a rap musician.
The judge asked her if she’d recently taken drugs. Stumbling backwards and rolling her eyes, she replied, “Actually, no.”
Here’s the first thing you might someday need to know about an encounter with the legal system. We don’t know any more about her use of drugs than what this woman told the judge, but some people who end up in jail have drug habits. Sometimes the drug is alcohol. Sometimes it’s a prescription medication. Sometimes it’s an illegal drug.
Whatever the substance, if it’s used chronically, during the first days and hours without the drug of choice, a person’s outlook can be dramatically affected by chemical changes resulting from interruption of their habit. If a person isn’t deliberate and aware of their condition, those changes can affect behavior. That’s one time a person will do well to have a sober mind standing up for them – especially during courtroom appearances.
If you’re not certain how to respond to the judge, watch your attorney. If your attorney looks concerned about your demeanor, tone it down.
Even with her giggling, fidgeting and twirling her hair, the judge at first set bond at $5,000. In most cases, a bondsman would take $500 to guarantee she makes her next court date, and she would be out of jail until then.
“Bye Bye” the judge said.
“Adios,” she said as she turned and walked away from the judge.
He called her back, obviously annoyed with her casual demeanor in a formal courtroom. He raised her bail to $10,000. “Adios,” he said, mirroring her earlier remark.
Turning away, the woman held up her hand, extending her middle finger and uttering a curse.
“F*** you,” she said.
The judge immediately called her back to face him. He confirmed with her what she had just said.
“Actually I did,” she said, playing with her long hair all the while.
“Did you say that.” the judge demanded.
“Yes, sir, I did,” she repeated.
“I find you in direct criminal contempt. Thirty days in the county jail,” the judge said.
Under his ruling, the woman will still need to post $10,000 bond if she wants out after her contempt sentence is served.
Now, there may be concerns about the judge’s handling of the case that a defense attorney could address. As an Oklahoma criminal defense attorney, I would review such a matter and advise a client of any options that might get them released sooner, or their bail reduced. That’s our job.
I would be much more effective representing a client, however, if the client didn’t dig an even deeper hole once they’ve been arrested and charged with a crime. Whatever resources a client has to invest in their criminal defense are better deployed defending against an underlying criminal charge than on battling the court system over courtroom etiquette.
All courts have particular rules of decorum. Beyond that, judges enjoy considerable discretion to maintain control of their courtrooms. When you appear in court, no matter how much you may disagree with the charges, object to the system or dislike the individuals working in the court, it is important that you afford the court at least as much respect as you expect. That’s kindergarten stuff. It’s the golden rule.
When you’re charged with a crime, spend your time and money defending yourself. Be courteous, but don’t laugh at the judge. Don’t laugh at the process.
When you’re in a Tulsa courtroom, maintain control over your own actions and let your Tulsa attorney speak for you. Especially if you’re a young person learning what society expects, you may find your practice of basic etiquette in the courtroom can be useful elsewhere in life, just as much as practice you put into any other skill.
Free Consultation With a Tulsa Defense Attorney
When you’re facing criminal charges, don’t go it alone if you don’t have to. If you would like a free consultation with a Tulsa Oklahoma criminal defense attorney, call the Wirth Law Office at (918) 879-1681 (or toll free at (888) Wirth-Law) or submit the question form at the top right of this page.