When a person is charged with committing a crime, the court may call in witnesses to give a testimony to act as a source of evidence in the case. Sometimes, however, the only witnesses to the crime are children. The court will allow any person who was a witness to the crime to submit a testimony unless they are deemed mentally unfit to give a witness testimony.
Any child who is older than nine years old is presumed to understand the nature of an oath, and therefore is able to testify under oath in court regarding what they witnessed. If the child is less than nine years of age, the court will have to determine whether the child truly understands the nature of the oath. If the child witness has sufficient knowledge of the situation in question and is able to adequately recount that information, the court may allow them to testify. The court also needs to make an assessment as to whether the child witness understands the importance of telling the truth and that if they falsely testify, they may be in trouble. It is important to note that if the child witness does not understand the nature of an oath, the court may allow them to make a statement as unsworn evidence. If this is the case, the court will have to obtain other witnesses who can give a statement under oath. The court may not convict a defendant only based on unsworn evidence.
If your child has been called to provide a witness testimony with the court, you may want to consult with an experienced attorney who can provide you with the guidance you need in handling this matter.
If you are in need of experienced legal counsel in New York State, please contact Grunwald & Seman, P.C. and we would be happy to assist you.