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An Affidavit is an extremely common and exceptionally important legal document, possibly the most important document. Almost every criminal or civil case will contain at least one, and most will contain many of them. These agreements are so common and go so far back that their name comes from Latin, meaning “He has declared under oath.”

What is an Affidavit?

An Affidavit is a sworn statement by the signer that the information contained within the affidavit is, to the best of their knowledge, correct. It contains two main parts. The first is the commencement, which describes the information that the signer is attesting to and also attests that the information included in the affidavit is accurate.

This is the most important element of the affidavit. Signing an affidavit is essentially the equivalent to stating that information on the witness stand or otherwise under oath. If the signer does signs an affidavit that they know is untrue or even just inaccurate, then they can be arrested for perjury. Due to this, an affidavit can sometimes stand in for witness testimony in court proceedings.

The second part of an affidavit is the attestation. This section, also known as a Jurat, is a fairly simple addition to the affidavit, mostly stating who the and the witnesses they signed in front of are, when it was signed and what the location the affidavit was signed at. This is followed by the name, date and the signature of both the person or persons signing the affidavit and the witness. The signatures and date can sometimes be considered a separate part of the affidavit, but it is essentially just an extension of the Jurat.

How is an Affidavit used?

An Affidavit is essentially used as form of witness testimony in court cases, typically signed before the court proceedings have begun when building a case. It can on rare occasions be used as a stand in for on the stand testimony, usually because the witness signing the affidavit is dead or otherwise incapacitated, but this is unusual, and typically combined with other testimony that corroborates the testimony in the affidavit.