Never having been caught…er, I mean never having broken the law, my knowledge of law comes from TV and movies; and I am familiar with the old “do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, etc, etc”. I know if you do, and are caught lying, you face perjury charges. What happens if they go thru the spiel and you say “No”?
IANAL, but I would guess this falls under the whole “contempt of court” thing. You aren’t volunteering to testify – normally it’s motivated by a subpoena. By refusing to swear, you’re essentially disregarding the subpoena, the same as if you just didn’t show up at all.
I’ve always wondered about this, too. Especially the “whole truth” part, which seems an potentially impossible standard to meet. What if you’re not in possession of the whole truth? Do you answer “yes” to the oath (i.e.: lie), or tell the truth and be found in contempt? I’d rather know before I have to find out.
Not everybody is required to swear under oath to tell the truth. It’s usually phrased so that if you are an atheist, you are not required to swear to God, but to affirm that you will tell the truth. BTW, I believe that you do not swear or affirm to tell the “whole truth,” or at least, that’s not the actual verbiage. To tell the truth is an absolute and there are no partial truths, unless you are Bill Clinton. If you are Clintonian, you may well ask what is “truth”?
So the witness is planning to lie, lie, lie … but he wants to be very forthcoming about the lying? Am I missing something here?
There are plenty of alternative oaths and affirmations, the purpose of which is generally regarded as being to solemnize the occasion, not call down the wrath of the Giant Wombat in the Sky if the witness fibs. Swearing to tell “the whole truth” means, of course, the whole truth of whatever you have within your personal knowledge, barbuitu8.
And if you don’t promise to tell the truth? Well, I’ve never heard of it happening before, but my best guess is the same as SmackFu’s: contempt of court.