An affidavit is a written statement made by an affiant. It is a legal document detailing knowledge the person has or facts as they know them to be. Above all, an affidavit is done voluntarily without coercion. In California, an affidavit is signed in the presence of a notary public.
Since an affidavit is a written document, the affiant’s recounting cannot be cross-examined as it might be in a courtroom. However, if the person who writes the affidavit is brought into a courtroom, he or she may be questioned about what is written in the affidavit.
Do You Take an Oath?
Depending on the affidavit usage type, you might. If you do, you promise that what you are writing is truthful in the same way you promise that what you say in court is the truth. The only difference is that the affidavit, is done in writing. If the information in the affidavit is false, you are subject to a charge of perjury just as if you lied on the stand. If convicted of perjury, you may face fines or jail time.
What Is the Purpose of an Affidavit?
This depends on what the affidavit is designed to do. If the affidavit is used in filing a case, it is used to tell your side of the story. Detailing the facts concisely helps the judge decide if the matter should proceed. If you witnessed an accident, the affidavit is used to tell your version of what happened. Much depends on the veracity of witnesses. Take the time to organize your thoughts, and tell the court what you saw.
The statement you make reflects what you know to be true. It should not include impressions from others or rumors. Besides being truthful, don’t put your interpretation of the events in the affidavit, just the facts are important.
In California, affidavits are signed in the presence of a notary. The notary provides certification that the affiant or deponent, if the affidavit was part of a deposition, signed the document in front of the notary, and that the signer did so in person. You need to bring a photo ID for this purpose such as a driver’s license or identification card.
If an affidavit is used in court, it will usually contain a jurat signed by the notary. The jurat says that an oath or affirmation was taken in front of the notary and that the person signing the affidavit is who he or she says they are.
Alternately, for other types of affidavit usage, an acknowledgement is sufficient. This format simply says that the notary verified that the signer, who appeared in person to identify themselves, is the affiant.
An affidavit will contain either a jurat or an affirmation, not both. A notary cannot determine whether an acknowledgement or a jurat is appropriate. Generally, the notary will ask the signer. If the signer is unsure, it will be asked of the attorney.