Mental Incompetence

In general

• Every person is competent to be a witness except as otherwise provided in these rules or by statute.

Evid. R. 601

• A person who is competent to testify in civil actions is also competent to testify in criminal proceedings.

IC 35-37-4-1

• Except as otherwise provided by statute, persons who are insane at the time they are offered as witnesses are not competent witnesses, whether or not they have been adjudged insane.

IC 34-45-2-2

• The general rule is that a witness is clothed with a presumption of competency.

Gosnell v. State, 376 N.E.2d 471, 472 (Ind. 1978)

• It is a general principal of law that everyone is presumed to be competent.

Walker v. State, 986 N.E.2d 328, 333 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013)

• It is the general rule that unsoundness of mind does not per se render a witness incompetent.

Ware v. State, 376 N.E.2d 1150, 1151 (Ind. 1978)

• The test of competency of a witness is whether the witness has sufficient mental capacity to perceive, to remember and to narrate the incident he has observed and to understand and appreciate the nature and obligation of an oath.

Ware v. State, 376 N.E.2d 1150, 1151 (Ind. 1978)

• The question of Hernandez's competency is as of the date of trial.

Serrano v. State, 515 N.E.2d 1111, 1112 (Ind. 1987)


• When the competency to testify is placed in issue it is the duty of the trial court to schedule a hearing in order to properly determine whether the witness is in fact competent to testify. If the evidence places the competency in doubt, the trial court should order the witness to be examined by a psychiatrist unless the State can show a paramount interest in denying the petition. The trial court has wide discretion in disposing of petitions of this kind and will be reversed only if it has clearly abused that discretion.

Gosnell v. State, 376 N.E.2d 471, 472 (Ind. 1978)

• Competency is an issue that must be resolved prior to the witness testifying; therefore, cross-examination for the purpose of establishing incompetency would have been too late.

Roller v. State, 602 N.E.2d 165, 172 (Ind. Ct. App. 1992)

• A motion for a psychiatric examination, however, must be made before the witness' testimony enters the record.

Little v. State, 413 N.E.2d 639, 645 (Ind. Ct. App. 1980)(citing Binder v. State, 221 N.E.2d 886 (Ind.1966))

• [T]his Court did not mean to imply that every time a defendant requests a psychiatric examination of a witness the request must automatically be granted. The decision rests within the sound discretion of the trial court.

Reiff v. State, 267 N.E.2d 184, 185 (Ind. 1971)