We live in time when it seems that a lot of people are increasingly trying to break out of whatever pigeon hole society tries to place them in. Whether it’s tattoos to try to express your independence or dressing in a manner that suggests that you don’t care what others think, much of society seems to be trying to exert a sense of individuality. Just as it has always been, the more people try to be different, the more alike they seem, so it is not surprising that those who try to be different often end up being labeled in one way or another. Unfortunately, what may seem like acts of independence by the individual can be viewed as acts of disrespect by bureaucracy.
Such is the case with many people who receive South Florida traffic tickets and attend traffic court. Granted, it’s hot here and shorts, tank tops, and sandals are common attire. If, however, you choose to fight your South Florida traffic ticket, this is not the image you want to impart on a judge who is going to be evaluating your character when making a determination about whether or not you deserved the traffic ticket. Think about it – if you do not have respect for yourself and the austerity of a courtroom setting, a judge is quite likely to presume that you don’t have any respect for traffic laws either. It is a bit hard to take someone seriously if the judge doesn’t feel you take yourself seriously. I am not advocating this assumption; I am simply stating that it is quite likely.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO TO COURT, BUT IF YOU DO…
Keep in mind that if you either decide to fight your traffic ticket yourself or to be present when your traffic ticket attorney appears on your behalf, it is important to, as they say, dress to impress. All states have attire that is accepted universally, but some states are more stringent than others when it comes to a certain style of dress. In California courtrooms, flip flops are verboten, jeans are unwelcome in Michigan, and short shorts are unseemly in Dover, Delaware. Those tank tops that I mentioned earlier are banned in Broward County’s Hollywood courthouse, which results in expanding the profit margin for the local clothing stores when those who show up dressed in tank tops scramble to cover up before their court appearance.
There is the occasional judge in Hollywood who may be more tolerant such as Judge Arlene Jo Simon who has been quoted as saying, “My personal judicial philosophy is that people dress according to what they think is appropriate,” she said. “This isn’t school where if someone is out of uniform you give mom a call.” I don’t believe this is generally the case with judges though. According to one statement printed in the Sun Sentinel, “Justice may be blind, but judges in South Florida are not.” It would seem that a lot of judges have had it with many of the people who appear before them showing up in inappropriate clothing because it gives the impression of being disrespectful. Granted, not everyone is going to like the attire of everyone else, but there is a standard that I think most people will agree on. Not everyone can show up to court in an Armani suit, but covering cleavage and wearing pants that don’t show off your boxers is advisable.
WE DRESS TO IMPRESS DO YOU DON’T HAVE TO
As a traffic ticket attorney, one of the requirements of my job to appear in court dressed respectably. We have all seen movies where an attorney may show up in court in a disheveled state, and that may be fine for actors, but in the very real world of traffic court, we have an obligation to present our clients in the most professional manner possible and that includes how we dress. Additionally, because we spend so much time in South Florida courtrooms, we are able to gauge what attire is suitable for our clients and advise them accordingly should they want to appear.
Now, I am quite aware that this is an issue that for some clients may raise the issue of First Amendment rights. Sometimes how one dresses has its roots deeply imbedded in religious and cultural belief systems. Whether it is a hijab worn by Muslim women or a turban worn by a Sikh man, these forms of headdress are an integral part of each religion, yet many American courtrooms find it offensive to wear a head covering inside the courthouse. Other such issues that may arise with “proper” courtroom attire are an absence of understanding on behalf of the defendant as to what clothing is acceptable or a financial inability to purchase such attire. Do these circumstances make it acceptable to deny a defendant the right to be heard in a court of law or to penalize the defendant in some other way?
Successfully fighting a traffic ticket can be difficult enough without the criteria governing courtroom dress code varying from one jurisdiction to the next. Consequently, just as different defense strategies work from county to county, what wardrobe selections work in a Broward County courtroom may differ in a Hillsborough County courtroom. Sometimes there is a practical application for certain dress requirements. Consider a criminal case involving gang members. Certain colors and manner of dress can be strongly associated with dangerous gangs. By dressing in ways that represent gang affiliation, often witnesses, and sometimes even attorneys, may be intimidated by the supposed gang member. This is one example of how courts having standards of care regarding dress can act as a safety net for those involved in what may be a set of dangerous circumstances.
There are always going to be those who simply feel that they should be able to wear whatever they choose and not feel as though the strength of their character is based upon their appearance. Although this is often true, generally people are judged first based upon their appearance and secondly upon what they say. Just like with a fine meal, many times presentation can be everything. I was recently privy to a conversation about posting things on social media sites. One person stated that she didn’t care what others thought of her; the other remind her that if you don’t care what others think, then you might as well leave a positive impression instead of a negative one. The same is true in leaving an impression upon a judge. You lose nothing by leaving a positive impression, but a negative impression may cost you. One way to avoid the entire issue is to hire a good traffic ticket attorney to represent you in the best possible light. If you get a traffic ticket in South Florida, give the Traffic Ticket Team a call at (954) 967-9888 for a free consultation. We assure that we will appear well-dressed on your behalf.