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  • Writer's pictureBrian Foley

Woodlands Criminal Defense Attorney - Rules of Evidence Series RULE 603

The Woodlands Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Brian Foley, and Texas Rules of Evidence.

"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?" I do. Congratulations you just have been sworn in to testify. But what if you morally object to swearing to God? Can you still testify in court without swearing? What do you have to do at that point?

Well the answer comes from Rule 603 of the Texas Rules of Evidence. There is no requirement to swear on a bible as was the case under the common law. You can give your "oath or affirmation" by simply promising to tell the truth. The phrasing of the truth, the whole, truth and nothing but the truth is still used in courtrooms across the country today but is not formally necessary. Some more modern Judges will not say this and will follow the language of Rule 603 more precisely by simply asking the witness if they promise to testify truthfully.

A defendant once argued that he should have the right to swear to this oath in front of the jury when he was previously sworn outside the jury's presence. The court ruled that "[t]he taking of the oath should not become a contest between witnesses to try to convince the jury that one oat [is] more binding than another oath." Fagbemi v. State, 778 S.W.2d 119, 120-21 (Tex. App. -- Texarkana 1989, pet. ref'd).

Another court used the following verbiage which was upheld on appeal, "You must tell us the truth. Don't tell us anything you made up or what somebody else told you. Will you do that?" Gonzales v. State 748 S.W.2d 510, 511-12 (Tex. App. -- Houston [1st Dist.] 1988, no pet.).

Rule 603. Oath or Affirmation to Testify Truthfully Before testifying, a witness must give an oath or affirmation to testify truthfully. It must be in a form designed to impress that duty on the witness’s conscience.


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