What Is The Legal Definition Of “Affidavit?”

An “Affidavit” is often used in court when attorneys present evidence to mount a case either for the plaintiff or against a defendant. These documents are signed by witnesses who have a connection to the case in some capacity. They are considered sworn testimony by the court, and knowingly signing an affidavit presenting incorrect or misconstrued information is tantamount to perjury, and can result in serious charges. 

There are three basic components to a written affidavit

The first component is called a commencement. This is the legal clause that prefaces the information contained later in the document, and it basically lets the signee know that their signature means that the information contained within the document is true — and that knowingly signing the document when information contained within the document is not true will result in “penalty under perjury, fine, or imprisonment” under the law.

The second component is called the attestation clause or jurat. This is the date when the signee took the oath.

The last component are the signatures of both the witness for whom the affidavit was written up and the author who wrote it up. Authenticated affidavits should always include the venue where the proceedings were carried out.

Many countries have their own versions of this document. For example, under Australia law a signed affidavit carries the same weight as unsworn testimony. Under India’s legal code, courts do not assume the right to hold affidavits as evidence. However, they can be used as evidence if a court makes such an order. Under Ireland’s law, affidavits are not held to a religious oath as in other countries, instead asking signees to make a “statement of truth.”

In the United States, an affidavit signed by someone who is currently deceased may still be used by the court as a presumption of fact. Old affidavits might be used by the court to “refresh” a material witness’s memory if the relevant events occurred too long ago. Anyone who signs an affidavit in the United States might be asked to take the witness stand should a court proceeding occur. 

Affidavits are required for a number of reasons. For example, when a person applied for social security disability insurance (SSDI), then they might require a sworn affidavit from a doctor who can legally affirm that they are indeed disabled and unable to work. Other professionals might also sign these affidavits. Military officers who are not medical doctors but who practice medicine are allowed to sign such affidavits depending on the jurisdiction. Visit website here for more information on how disability affidavits work. Laws vary by state.

One important fact about affidavits is that the acceptance of a signed and sworn affidavit by one jurisdiction does not confirm its affirmation by another jurisdiction. Sometimes, more than one affidavit attesting to the same facts might need to be signed when two jurisdictions require that information be presented in court.