Hawaii Revised Statutes 603 Oath or Affirmation.

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 A prior statute, superseded by this rule, stated: "Every court...may administer the following oath-affirmation to all witnesses legally called before them: Do you solemnly swear or affirm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 §621-12 (1976) (repealed 1980) (originally enacted as L 1876, c 32, §48; am L 1973, c 155, §1).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."

Last modified: October 27, 2016