Witness Competency in Illinois - Criminal Law Legal Blogs Posted by Lori G. Levin - Lawyers.com

Witness Competency in Illinois

   Recently, I was asked if a witness must be a certain age in order to
testify in court. Although case law describes in more detail the issues
relating to witness competency in Illinois, 725 ILCS 5/115-14 outlines
that every person, regardless of age, is qualified to be a witness.
   
The statute further states that a person is not qualified to be a
witness only if he or she is "(1) Incapable of expressing himself or
herself concerning the matter so as to be understood, either directly or
through interpretation by one who can understand him or her; or (2)
Incapable of understanding the duty of a witness to tell the truth."
  
Prior to a witness’ testimony, a party may request that the court
determine if a witness is competent to testify. The hearing shall be
conducted outside the presence of the jury and the burden of proof shall
be on the moving party.
    Even though not required by
law, many times a party calling a very young witness to the stand seeks
to qualify the witness anyway. Questions may be asked regarding the
roles of persons in the courtroom, tests of memory and the difference
between truth and a lie and the impact of telling falsehoods are
elicited.
   Being a witness is stressful for adults.
Being a young child witness can be even more so. The "qualifying"
questions may allow a child to become more comfortable in a strange
setting before the crux of the testimony begins.
   

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Lori G. Levin

Licensed since 1980

Member at firm Lori G. Levin, Attorney at Law

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