Witness Competency Baseline

In the recent case of Michigan v. Tarique Houssaine the defendant, who was convicted of second degree criminal sexual conduct, argued that the victim, a seven year old girl, was not competent to testify, and that the victim’s testimony was an abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court.
The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court, which concluded that the test of competency is not based on if the witness can distinguish right from wrong, but on whether a witness has requisite capacity and sense of obligation to testify truthfully and understandably. This is established in People v. Breck, which shows that after the court has determined that the child is competent to testify, the presumption of a child’s inability to testify truthfully is a reflection on their credibility and not their competency.
Therefore, since the victim demonstrated awareness of an obligation to testify truthfully, her testimony was valid. This is the baseline in determining competency in testifying, as there are no set age limits.


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