Intervenants du système judiciaire
Testifying in court
You may be required to testify before a court in the context of judicial proceedings. You may be asked to state facts of which you have knowledge.
As a witness, you have certain rights, but also obligations.
There may be additional details if you are:
- A witness who is a victim of a criminal offence
- A witness of a criminal offence
- An expert witness.
You will receive a summons prior to your testimony. This summons is made by means of a summons to appear in civil matters or a summons to appear in criminal or penal matters. This document will require your presence at a place, date and time, which will be specified therein.
Obligation to testify
Your presence in court is mandatory. You may be subject to an arrest warrant or a warrant for witness if you do not appear. You may also be subject to a conviction for contempt, which is punishable by imprisonment.
However, witnessing a situation or being summoned does not necessarily mean you will have to testify.
Absence for a legitimate reason
Immediately contact the party that sent you the summons if you are unable to attend at the indicated place and time.
You may at all times benefit from measures to protect your rights and minimize inconveniences that may arise from your having to testify.
These measures apply under the Service statement regarding witnesses (in French only).
Your identity and address
Normally, before testifying, you must tell the clerk:
- your name;
- your age;
- your address;
- your occupation.
The court may issue the necessary orders to protect the confidentiality of your address or identity if you fear for your safety.
The court protects you from intimidation at the hearing.
Reach out to the police or the lawyer who summoned you if someone outside the court is:
- threatening you;
- trying to influence your testimony;
- trying to stop you from testifying.
That person could face charges.
Your employer is obliged to allow you to be absent from work in order to testify. No sanction may be imposed by your employer for this absence.
If your employer does not respect your rights, you may file a complaint with the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail du Québec (CNESST) .
You may use interpretation services if:
- you are deaf or hard of hearing;
- you are not fluent in the language used at the hearing.
Support from a friend or relative
Under certain circumstances, a friend or relative may accompany you if you need it.
The day of your testimony
Appear at the place and time indicated in your summons.
Enter the hearing room when you are called. The clerk will swear you in, and then you will testify. You must state your name, age, address and occupation to the clerk.
Your testimony may no longer be required or may be postponed.
In this event, the court may:
- inform you of the new date at which you must appear before the court;
- inform you that a new summons will be sent to you;
- release you.
During your testimony
When you are before the court, follow the judge’s instructions.
You must tell the truth and address your answers to the judge.
Your role is to state the facts that you witnessed.
Your testimony ends once the judge releases you.
Generally, your testimony is public. Citizens and journalists can access it.
After your testimony
You may receive compensation for expenses you incurred due to having to testify, including:
- time lost;
Find out more about the indemnities and allowances offered.
Last update: October 12, 2023