But when you imagine a person testifying in court as a witness, it is not common to envision a child on the stand. However, it is a situation that does happen every now and then, but only under specific circumstances.
Continue reading to learn some basics about children witnesses.
So what constitutes a competent child witness? A child must be deemed to have sufficient intelligence, be able to remember and describe events, answer questions clearly, and know the difference between truth and lies. These qualities can be found in very young children, as well as pubescent and young adults. A judge ultimately determines a child’s competency to testify in trial. It is common in these cases for judges to order a psychological evaluation to assess the child’s credibility.
General Rules and Exceptions
Witnesses are generally excluded from the majority of a court hearing. Usually, they must wait outside the courtroom until they are asked to take the stand. This avoids witnesses from changing their testimony after hearing other witnesses talk about the case. However, this rule may not be enforced in the case of a child taking the stand to testify. Often times, judges will permit a parent, guardian, or therapist to chaperone the child through the duration of the hearing.
Another exception that is often made for child witnesses is the right to give their testimony via a closed-circuit television or monitor. Many states have laws that protect child witnesses, especially those who are victims of abuse or assault. Rather than testifying in the same room as an abuser or offender, a child is allowed to provide their testimony from a safe location. Videotaped depositions are also used.