is a formal sworn statement of fact
, signed by the declarant (who is called the affiant
) and witnessed (as to the veracity of the affiant's signature
) by a taker of oaths, such as a notary public
. The name is Medieval Latin
for he has declared upon oath
Uses of affidavits include:
- To allow evidence to be gathered from witnesses or participants who may not be available to testify in person before the court, or who may otherwise fear for their safety if their true identities are revealed in court.
- To obtain a declaration on a legal document, such as an application for voter registration, that the information provided by the applicant is truthful to the best of the applicant's knowledge. If, after signing such a declaration, the information is found to be deliberately untrue with the intent to deceive, the applicant may face perjury charges.
In American jurisprudence
, under the rules for hearsay
, admission of an unsupported affidavit as evidence is unusual (especially if the affiant is not available for cross-examination
) with regard to material facts which may be dispositive of the matter at bar. Affidavits from persons who are dead or otherwise incapacitated, or who cannot be located or made to appear may be accepted by the court, but usually only in the presence of corroborating evidence
. An affidavit which reflected a better grasp of the facts close in time to the actual events may be used to refresh a witness' recollection. Materials used to refresh recollection are admissible as evidence. If the affiant is a party in the case, the affiant's opponent may be successful in having the affidavit admitted as evidence, as statements by a party-opponent are not considered hearsay.
Some types of motions will not be accepted by the court unless accompanied by an independent sworn statement or other evidence, in support of the need for the motion. In such a case, a court will accept an affidavit from the filing attorney in support of the motion, as certain assumptions are made, to wit: The affidavit in place of sworn testimony promotes judicial economy. The lawyer is an officer of the court and knows that a false swearing by him, if found out, could be grounds for severe penalty up to and including disbarment. The lawyer if called upon would be able to present independent and more detailed evidence to prove the facts set forth in his affidavit.
The acceptance of an affidavit by one society does not confirm its acceptance as a legal document in other jurisdictions. Equally, the acceptance that a lawyer is an officer of the court (for swearing the affidavit)is not a given. This matter is addressed by the use of the Apostille, a means of certifying the legalization of a document for international use under the terms of the 1961 Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents. Documents which have been notarized by a notary public, and certain other documents, and then certified with a conformant apostille are accepted for legal use in all the nations that have signed the Hague Convention. Thus most Affidavits now require to be Apostilled if used for cross border issues.
Republic of Ireland
Affidavits are made in a similar way as to England and Wales, although "make oath" is sometimes omitted. A declaration may be substituted for an affidavit in most cases for those opposed to swearing oaths. The person making the affidavit is known as the deponent but does not sign the affidavit. The affidavit concludes in the standard format "sworn (declared) before me, [name of commissioner for oaths/solicitor], a commissioner for oaths (solicitor), on the [date] at [location] in the county/city of [county/city], and I know the deponent (declarant)", and it is signed and stamped by the commissioner for oaths.