Character Witness Law & Legal Definition


A character witness is a person who testifies in a trial on behalf of a person as to that person's reputation for honesty and morality both by the personal knowledge of the witness and the person's reputation in the community. A character witness usually is required to live in the same community as the person they testify about. Such testimony is given in civil and a criminal cases, usually when a person's morals or honesty is at issue, such as in a charge of fraud or theft.

State rules of evidence regarding character evidence testimony varies by state. Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, character witnesses may give opinions as well as testify to the person's reputation good character. The Federal Rules also give the court discretion to permit cross-examination of a witness about specific instances of conduct in two situations: when the specific instances are probative of the witness' own character for truthfulness and when they concern the character for truthfulness of another witness and the witness being cross-examined has testified about the truthfulness of that witness.