What is an Affidavit?
An affidavit is a formal sworn statement of fact that is signed by the original author, who is technically called the “affiant” or “deponent”. The document is to be officially witnessed as to the authenticity of the affiant’s signature by a notary public.
The name affidavit originates from Medieval Latin, where it stood for he has declared upon oath. An affidavit is a type of verified statement or showing, or in other words, an affidavit contains a verification, meaning it is under oath or penalty of perjury, and this serves as evidence to its veracity and is required for court proceedings.
Uses of Affidavits
- An affidavit can be used 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. The person writes down their testimony and a notary public authorizes and confirms the authenticity.
- An affidavit can be used 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.
Affidavits may be written in the first or third person, depending on who drafted the document. If in the first person, the document’s component parts are:
- A commencement which identifies the affiant
- The individual averments, almost always numbered as mandated by law, each one making a separate claim
- A statement of truth generally stating that everything is true, under penalty of perjury, fine, or imprisonment; and
- An attestation clause, usually a jurat, at the end certifying the affiant made oath and the date.
- If an affidavit is notarized or authenticated, it will also include a caption with a venue and title in reference to judicial proceedings. In some cases, an introductory clause, called a preamble, is added attesting that the affiant personally appeared before the authenticating authority.
Private investigators should be familiar with legal documents and terminology to assist their clients with investigations related to such documents. For more legal definitions, visit our Glossary of Legal and Investigation Terms.