How to Behave in Court

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Everyone is expected to follow rules of behaviour in court. These rules help maintain order and are called "courtroom decorum."

Following courtroom decorum shows that you respect the justice system and take the court process seriously.

 

At a Trial

A courtroom is not a concert hall or movie theatre. What goes on in court is serious, and it involves real people dealing with tough, real-life problems.

You must be respectful in a courtroom. If you aren’t, court employees can ask you to leave.

These are some of the main rules you must follow:

  1. You must stand when the judge enters the courtroom and remain standing until she sits down. You must also stand when the judge gets up to leave and remain standing until she leaves.
  2. You must be quiet in the courtroom. You can’t talk to other people during the hearing, and you can’t show whether you agree or disagree with what’s going on.
  3. You aren’t allowed to use a camera, video recorder, cellphone or other device that makes noise. You aren’t allowed to read a newspaper or magazine during the hearing.
  4. You can’t eat or drink (except water) in the courtroom.

You should know these rules before you go to court. If you forget one, the court usher is there to remind you.

  • When the hearing begins, the court usher says, "Silence. All rise please. The court is now in session."
  • When the judge sits, the court usher asks everyone to sit.
  • When the judge gets up to leave, the court usher everyone to stand.
  • If you talk or disrupt the court, the court usher will ask you to stop or leave the courtroom.

 

Appearing in Court and Testifying

If you’ve been charged with a crime you might have to appear before the court. If you’ve witnessed an event, you might have to testify, that is, tell the court what you heard or saw.

In both cases, there are added rules to follow:

You must dress appropriately. You don’t need to rent a tux, but you still have to dress properly. For example, shorts and mini-skirts are not allowed in court.

You must be polite and respectful when you speak in court.
 
When speaking to the judge, you must rise and remaining standing.

If a lawyer asks you questions, you must give your answer to the judge, not the lawyer.

Important! If you’re accused of a crime, you have the right to remain silent and can’t be forced to testify.

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.