This Oklahoma statue was enacted by the state legislature to provide emotional support for a child witness, a child thirteen years of age or younger, in a criminal proceeding. The statute allows for a child witness to be accompanied by a support person while giving testimony. Additionally, the child witness is able to have a certified therapeutic dog accompanied by the handler in lieu of a support person. Under the statute, a certified therapeutic dog is a dog which has received requisite training and certification from the organizations listed in the statute.
A. It is the intent of the Oklahoma Legislature in enacting this section to recognize the special circumstances and needs of a child witness during criminal court proceedings, and to protect the child witness from any unnecessary emotional discomfort or anguish.
B. In any criminal proceeding, a child witness shall have the right to be accompanied by a support person while giving testimony in the proceeding, but the support person shall not discuss the testimony of the child witness with any other witnesses or attempt to prompt or influence the testimony of the child witness.
C. The child witness shall be afforded the opportunity, if available, to have a certified therapeutic dog accompanied by the handler of the certified therapeutic dog in lieu of a support person.
D. As used in this section:
1. “Certified therapeutic dog” means a dog which has received the requisite training or certification from the American Kennel Club, Therapy Dogs Incorporated, or an equivalent organization to perform the duties associated with therapy dogs in places such as hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities where the emotional benefits of therapy dogs are recognized. Prior to the use of a certified therapeutic dog the court shall conduct a hearing to verify:
a. the credentials of the certified therapeutic dog,
b. the certified therapeutic dog is appropriately insured, and
c. a relationship has been established between the child witness and the certified therapeutic dog in anticipation of testimony;
2. “Child witness” means an individual younger than thirteen (13) years of age who has been or will be called to testify in a criminal proceeding; and
3. “Support person” means a parent, other relative or a next friend chosen by the witness to accompany the witness to criminal proceedings.
Laws 2014, c. 81, § 1, eff. Nov. 1, 2014.