Rule 603 Oath or affirmation. Before testifying, every witness shall be required to declare that the witness will testify truthfully, by oath or affirmation administered in a form calculated to awaken the witness' conscience and impress the witness' mind with the witness' duty to do so. [L 1980, c 164, pt of 1; gen ch 1985]




This rule is identical with Fed. R. Evid. 603. Its intent is to retain the common-law requirement that a witness must solemnly undertake to tell the truth. As the Advisory Committee's Note to Fed. R. Evid. 603 puts it: "[N]o special verbal formula is required."

Although under early common law, refusal of a witness to affirm his belief in a supreme being or to invoke the deity according to a specified formulary oath rendered him incompetent, modern law is contrary. In United States v. Looper, 419 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir. 1969), the court said: "The common law ... requires neither an appeal to God nor the raising of a hand as a prerequisite to a valid oath. All that the common law requires is a form or statement which impresses upon the mind and conscience of a witness the necessity for telling the truth."

The liberal requirement for an "oath or affirmation" is broadly consistent with Hawaii law. Hawaii Rev. Stat. 1-21 (1976) provides that "[t]he word 'oath' includes a solemn affirmation." A prior statute, superseded by this rule, stated: "Every court ... may administer the following oath-affirmation to all witnesses legally called before them: Do you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?" Hawaii Rev. Stat. 621-12 (1976) (repealed 1980) (originally enacted as L 1876, c 32, 48; am L 1973, c 155, 1). In State v. Ponteras, 44 H. 71, 75, 351 P.2d 1097, 1100 (1960), the court, in determining the issue of the sufficiency of an oath administered to a minor, stated: "No particular words are required in exacting the declaration or promise from a child to tell the truth."

The rule is also in accord with Hawaii's statutes on perjury. Hawaii Rev. Stat. 710-1060 through 710-1062 (1976) all proscribe false statements under oath, and Hawaii Rev. Stat. 710-1000(10) (1976) defines "oath" for the purposes of these statutes: "'Oath' includes an affirmation and every other mode authorized by law of attesting to the truth of that which is stated...." In addition, Hawaii Rev. Stat. 710-1068 (1976) provides that it is no defense that "the oath was administered or taken in an irregular manner."



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