Can I have my criminal law trial in French?

1. Learn about what you get

If you exercise your French language rights under the Criminal Code, you have the right to have your and in French.

This means:

  • You can use either French or English during your trial and in your documents
  • You have the right to a French-speaking or bilingual judge and jury
  • You have the right to a French-speaking or bilingual Crown prosecutor
  • The judge can decide to allow the Crown prosecutor to examine or cross-examine a witness in their official language even if it is not your official language
  • You, your lawyer, or your witnesses can use court interpreters at no cost
  • Your trial can be a bilingual proceeding if you have co-accused and are being tried together but have chosen different official languages
  • You get a transcript of everything that was said in the official language in which it was said, a transcript of any interpretation into the other official language, and any documentary evidence that was submitted in the official language in which it was submitted, in most cases
  • You get your trial judgment, including reasons, in your official language

What you don’t get

Your right to have proceedings in French doesn't apply to other types of hearings such as bail hearings, first appearances, or guilty pleas. But, some courts have provided bail hearings and guilty pleas in French on request. For example, in Ottawa.

You can ask for an interpreter for other hearings through the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Court Services Division. You should ask for an interpreter ahead of time so that court staff can make arrangements for the date and time required. Give the following information:

  • the type of appearance
  • date and time the interpreter is needed
  • court location

Your right to have proceedings in French also doesn't give you an automatic right to get your in French. Disclosure is the information that the police and the Crown have about your case. But the court can order that some of your disclosure be translated at no cost to you to allow you to prepare and present your defence.

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