Criminal Law

Affidavit Definition

What Is an Affidavit?

An affidavit is a sworn statement used as evidence in court/legal proceedings. A person sworn in by oath or affirmation creates a written statement and swears the information is accurate.

The document is used in court cases or legal matters. Any wrong information or lies can lead to perjury charges. The person who swears the affidavit is trustworthy is called an "affiant" and may need to appear in court to testify about their affidavit.

Key Takeaways

  • An affidavit must be signed by the affiant and a notary public or other public official
  • You likely need to use a specific affidavit form for your particular legal situation
  • People can submit "third party" affidavits about you or elements of your court case
  • Depositions and affidavits are not the same thing

Understanding Affidavits

An affidavit is a written statement of fact based on your personal knowledge of a situation. It becomes a legal document in judicial proceedings after a notary public or other public official administers the oath.

The legal term comes from Medieval Latin "affidare" which means "to pledge."

Someone who provides an affidavit usually can't face cross-examination in court, so it is an appealing option for those looking to avoid too much court involvement.

You may need to testify about the authenticity in court or answer additional questions about your statement, however.

Elements of an Affidavit

You can't just write anything down and call it a sworn statement. It is typical to use an affidavit form that includes four parts:

  • Footnote listing where and when you took the oath and who swore you in -- this is called a "jurat"
  • A statement that explains you are swearing to the truthfulness of the information
  • Relevant information
  • Your signature

Different Types of Affidavits

There are different types of affidavits you may be required to use in various legal situations. Affidavits are commonly to provide evidence for:

  • Divorce cases
  • Creating a will or power of attorney
  • Applying for a loan or other financial needs
  • Marital benefits or support
  • Verifying residence, property, estates, or ownership
  • Death
  • Proving heir status or skipping probate in some states
  • Citizenship
  • Name changes or identity theft claims

Working with an attorney will ensure you understand the information needed and your rights when creating an affidavit. Some court proceedings require this information to take further action, such as signing an affidavit that you have the title to your home before selling it.

Affidavit vs. Deposition

Writing an affidavit is similar to giving a deposition. A "deponent" is someone who provides truthful information during a deposition, which is giving sworn evidence outside of court. Deponents are also called witnesses, and they provide information before the case goes to trial. In some cases, either side might use the information at trial.

Depositions are spoken and recorded, while affidavits are written.

Related Terms