Civil Litigation-Competency of Witness

The competency of a witness to testify may frequently become an issue. Generally, any witness within the age of reason is considered to be competent, provided that witness has not been declared incompetent by a court. The age of reason varies depending upon the maturity and intelligence of the witness, with age 7 generally being a cutoff point. Between ages 7 and 14, it is a matter for the trial judge to determine whether the child is of sufficient sophistication to testify. A person is declared incompetent by a court if there has been a judicial determination that he or she is deficient in mental capacities to the point where he or she cannot conduct his or her own affairs and needs to have someone else appointed as a guardian. If a person has been declared incompetent, then he or she may not be able to testify. Other issues of competency may arise in terms of taking of an oath. Some people maintain that they cannot take an oath because of their religious beliefs. Normally, that is resolved by having the person affirm that they will tell the truth rather than having them state that they will tell the truth so help me God.

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