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Definition

An affidavit is a written statement of facts voluntarily made by a person under an oath or affirmation before a notary public or other person authorized to administer oaths.  The word “affidavit” has a Medieval Latin root whose definition is “declaration upon oath.”  During that time in history, affidavits were orally made.  Affidavits eventually became associated with a written rather than oral statement.  A person who signs an affidavit and swears to its truth is called an affiant.

Any public officer authorized by law to administer oaths and affirmations—such as city recorders, court clerks, notaries, county clerks, commissioners of deeds, and court commissioners—may take affidavits.  Justices of the peace and magistrates are sometimes authorized to take affidavits.  Unless restricted by state law, judges may take affidavits involving controversies before them.

An officer cannot take affidavits outside of the particular jurisdiction in which he or she exercises authority.  The source of this authority must appear at the bottom of the affidavit.  A notary, for example, would indicate the county in which he or she is commissioned and the expiration date of the commission.  An official seal is not essential to the validity of the affidavit but may be placed on it by the proper official.

An oath is an essential element of any affidavit.  The statement of the affiant does not become an affidavit unless the proper official administers an oath whereby the affiant swears to the truth of the written contents.  An affidavit usually must contain the address of the affiant, the date that the statement was made, the affiant’s signature or mark and the place where the statement was made.  An affidavit must also state the source of the affiant’s information and the grounds for the affiant’s belief in the accuracy of such information.

Affidavits are used in business and in judicial and administrative proceedings.

Statements of the financial stability of a corporation, the pedigree of animals, and the financial conditions of a person applying for credit are examples of affidavits used in business.

Affidavits can sometimes serve as evidence in civil actions and criminal prosecutions. If a witness who has made an affidavit is not available to testify at trial, his or her affidavit may be admitted as evidence. If the witness is present, his or her affidavit is inadmissible except when used to impeach the witness’s testimony, or to help the witness with past recollection of facts.   Affidavits are also used as evidence in ex parte proceedings such as an order to show cause.

Affidavits are frequently used in administrative and quasi-Judicial proceedings as evidence when no objection is made to their admission.


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