Hawaii Revised Statutes 601 General Rule of Competency.

Rule 601 General rule of competency. Every person is competent to be a witness except as otherwise provided in these rules. [L 1980, c 164, pt of §1]


This rule is identical with the first sentence of Fed. R. Evid. 601. The second sentence of Fed. R. Evid. 601, providing that "in civil actions and proceedings, with respect to an element of a claim or defense as to which State law supplies the rule of decision, the competency of a witness shall be determined in accordance with State law," has been omitted as extraneous.

The rule embodies the intent expressed in the Advisory Committee's Note to Fed. R. Evid. 601 to abolish "religious belief, conviction of crime, and connection with the litigation as a party or interested person or spouse of a party or interested person" as bases for disqualification of a witness. Proper grounds for witness disqualification are set forth in Rules 602 and 603.1 infra.

Although earlier Hawaii statute and case law preserved some of the traditional common-law witness disqualifications, see, e.g., The King v. Brown, 3 H. 114 (1869) (parties in interest), these disqualifications were eliminated by later statutes. See, e.g., Hawaii Rev. Stat. §§621-14, 621-17 (1976) (repealed 1980) (originally enacted as L 1876, c 32, §§49, 51; am L 1943, c 146, §1; am L 1972, c 104, §1(i), (j), (l)). Thus, Rule 601 effects no change in existing Hawaii law.

This rule is subject to Rule 505 supra, providing that "the spouse of the accused [in a criminal case] has a privilege not to testify against the accused." In addition, conviction of crime and interest in the litigation may be provable under Rules 609 and 609.1 infra, to impeach the credibility of witnesses.

Case Notes

Witness incompetent to testify as to all matters dealt with in hypnotherapy sessions. Hypnotically induced recollection held per se inadmissible. 68 H. 233, 709 P.2d 103.

Trial court did not err in allowing witness to testify regarding witness's religious beliefs where prosecution did not inquire into witness's religious beliefs for the purpose of enhancing witness's credibility but was instead seeking to establish why witness did not murder person defendant sought to have witness murder. 99 H. 390, 56 P.3d 692.

Where evidence was insufficient to find officer had present recollection of field sobriety test, officer not qualified to testify as witness to that matter. 80 H. 138 (App.), 906 P.2d 624 (1995).

Last modified: October 27, 2016