When going to court, it is best to not dress “like a hoochie,” according to Floyd County District Attorney Leigh Patterson.
“If you come in dressed like a hoochie, and you are accused of being a hoochie, you’ve just fulfilled that role,” Patterson said. “You want to have some respect for the court and for yourself.”
Patterson admits that while some crimes are so terrible, it won’t matter what someone wears, it does always help to look presentable.
“You don’t have to dress in something expensive, but be clean and neat and don’t wear something vulgar,” she said.
Patterson has many stories of what could charitably be called miscues.
“I’ve seen a guy come into my office wearing a cropped shirt that said ‘Booty Hunter’ on it,” she said. “He also seemed as if he hadn’t bathed in 10 days. You can’t go to court like that.”
Then there was the woman who came to an arraignment wearing a spiked dog collar with the word for a female dog engraved on the nametag.
“The judge was very unhappy with that,” she said.
“Interesting” fashion choices range from short shorts to curlers and pajamas to bathing suits, she added. The lack of a clothing item also can be a problem.
“Several show up without the proper foundation garments,” Patterson explained.
Patterson tries to tell people to wear conservative clothing when appearing before a judge.
“Think as if you are going to church,” she said. “You only get one chance to make a first impression. I tell men to try for a polo shirt and khakis and women to try to wear a dress that covers their knees, or pants.”
While she and other lawyers try to give advice, people do not always listen, she said.
“It does amaze me,” said Patterson. “You’d think they’d know this is important.
“Even if you show up in jeans and T‑shirt, be clean. Wash, comb your hair.”
Patterson said she often tells people to try to find something appropriate at local thrift stores or Goodwill.
“You can take $5 and buy a decent shirt or you can find a nice dress somewhere that doesn’t show all of your wares,” Patterson said. “Buy a tube of toothpaste and soap at the dollar store. I think sometimes people just don’t care.”
Joe Smith, Rome city clerk, said that bailiffs sometimes have to ask people to put something on or change.
“I’ve heard of a judge telling someone to go home and he reschedules their court date,” Smith said. “More often than not, it is an issue of not wearing enough clothing. Summer is the time it happens the most.”
Mary Brown, administrative assistant for Judge Steve Burkhalter, said their office staff will always advise people to try to dress appropriately.
“Just because you can wear it, doesn’t mean you should,” Brown said.