Raise Your Right Hand, and then Put it Down

By Jedidiah McKeehan

I am sure we have all seen a movie where someone is sworn in to testify.

A bailiff or judge looks at the witness and says, “Raise your right hand. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you, God?”

The witness replies, “I do.”

That interaction, which happens, thousands of times across the US every single day, does not go down exactly as you would think.

First off, these witnesses are not getting sworn into office, so there is no Bible or other book on which you place your hand when being sworn in.

Second, you need not keep your right hand up the entire time you are testifying. Yes, I know, the President keeps his up through the entire oath of office, however, you get to put your hand down after you are “sworn in.”

Probably once a week I hear a judge tell someone after the witness is sworn-in, “You can put your hand down.”

Different judges take different approaches to the swearing-in process. One judge I practice in front of from time to time starts Court every morning by having everyone present in the entire courtroom, stand up and be sworn in. That way, he does not have to worry about it for each hearing that day and he knows everyone is covered. Remember though, you get to put your hand back down after you are finished being sworn in.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties. He works in many areas, including family law, criminal, and personal injury. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.