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Advice for Defendants Preparing for Criminal Trial

Defending yourself on criminal charges can be one of the most terrifying experiences of your life. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based criminal defense lawyer, Stanton D. Levenson, shares the advice he gives his own clients during this difficult time:

Don’t Let Your Body Language Mislead the Jurors

During jury trials, jurors carefully study all the participants—the lawyers, the client, the witnesses and the judge. This is because of the very nature of the jury trial itself. Jurors are restricted to the jury box and aren’t able to speak to one another in the courtroom. This gives them a lot of time for keen observation of everyone’s habits and mannerisms. This body language and behavior gets interpreted in a variety of ways, but some of them can pose a problem for defendants.

So Don’t:

  • …look down/avoid eye contact with the witnesses and jury
  • …look ashamed or embarrassed
  • …try to stare down the witness or intimidate them


  • …look at the witness and jury like you would anyone else under normal circumstances

Appearances Count

A defendant with a clean, neat appearance shows respect for the court, and an understanding of the seriousness of the defendant’s circumstances. But there are a few things to avoid…


  • overdress for the occasion. if you don’t normally get dressed up, don’t dress up for trial. Jurors are good at detecting phoniness and manipulation, and you will lose credibility with the court
  • come into the court room unclean, wrinkled or otherwise sloppy.


  • dress as you ordinarily do. If you’re a businessperson who is often dressed up, then a suit would be appropriate. If you ordinarily dress more casually, then this the way to dress in court.

Avoid Common Mistakes

There are a number of mistakes individuals accused of a crime make as their trial approaches. Some helpful tips can help you avoid these pitfalls.


  • discuss the case with non-lawyers. Attorneys who specialize in criminal law understand the complex legal system, and what may seem like common sense to a person not familiar with the law is not necessarily helpful from a legal perspective. While your friends, family and neighbors may be very concerned for you and want to help you in any way they can, the best thing you can do for yourself is to restrict your discussion of the case to your own legal team.
  • try to do your own research. Again, the court system has its own complex language, and unless you’re well-versed in it, you may actually do more harm than good by trying to tackle your own research.
  • compare your case with other, similar cases. Each case is entirely unique, and one case generally has nothing to do with another case, no matter how similar they initially may seem.


  • make sure your lawyer explains to you the strategy, and why he or she may be asking certain questions and not others.
  • tell your lawyer what you would like to see him or her doing regarding your case, and share any ideas you might have. Sometimes clients have ideas that lawyers might not think of because the client is so close to the circumstances that led to the charges. A collaborative experience with your lawyer will serve you best.

Things To Keep in Mind as Trial Approaches

Defending yourself against criminal charges may be the most frightening time you’ll ever face. But as your trial approaches, it’s important to remember the following:

  • This is a limited-time event. It will be over at some point.
  • Yes, the trial may be life-changing. But do not let it alter every aspect of your life. Life will go on, as painful as it may seem now.

For more information on this topic, or if you have a criminal case you’re concerned about, contact the criminal defense offices of Stanton D. Levenson here.

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