Advice For Answering Questions In Court

You will always be asked questions by your lawyer first.

The witness is always questioned by their lawyer first. The crown witnesses are asked questions by the crown first and then cross examined. You, as the defendant or the defense witness, will be asked questions by the defense lawyer first and then by the crown. While you are answering, you need to avoid the temptation to glance over at the defense lawyer and hope that he or she will rescue you when a difficult question is asked. You see witnesses do this all the time. When the court sees a witness begging with their eyes for some help, this undermines your credibility, especially in front of a jury. The reality is that you are up there to tell the truth and the judge or jury knows that you’re the only person who was there during the incident to give the full story. So if you are looking to the lawyer for help, they’re going to be concerned that you have scripted your answers. They’ll think that you just don’t remember what you should say, as opposed to you actually knowing the truth and telling it to the court.

Your lawyer can only protect you from questions that are improper. The lawyer can’t protect you from answering legally appropriate questions that might still be difficult to answer or emotionally challenging. When your lawyer does stand up, you should immediately stop answering the question. That’s a signal that your lawyer may want to make an objection and is going to address the judge. The judge will direct you, at the end of your lawyer’s submission, as to whether you should or should not answer the question.

Often, in criminal court proceedings, you’re going to be asked questions about something that is intensely personal and it may have to do with matters that are also very emotional. It is difficult to maintain control of your emotions in those types of circumstances and good lawyers will try to exploit that. We want our clients to be ready for the emotion that comes with a court proceeding and to maintain, as much as possible, control of their own emotions. It’s reasonable to show some frustrations, it’s reasonable to show some anger, and it’s reasonable to show some emotion. You don’t want to appear like you’re a robot up there. If something is genuinely sad, the court is going to expect the credible witness to appear sad about it. But what you don’t want to do is be goaded into yelling, shouting, fighting or swearing–all things that I’ve seen happen in court. You don’t want that to be you.

If you, or someone you care about, is dealing with criminal law issues in the Toronto,Ontario Region, contact Adler Bytensky Prutschi Shikhman for a consultation.

This information is taken from an interview from , January 23 2009 with Ed Prutschi, Criminal Lawyer with Adler Bytensky Prutschi Shikhman, a Toronto Criminal Defence Law Firm. The article is provided as an information service only and should not be used as legal advice. Laws vary by jurisdiction so please consult with an appropriate legal professional if you are looking for help with a specific situation.