An affidavit is a sworn statement presented in writing by any person with knowledge of important facts. Affidavits are used to present evidence in various types of legal proceedings, in and out of court, and come in many formats to fit the context in which the statement is being used. A general affidavit is the basic form of the statement and can be used in any situation that does not require a specialized affidavit format.
Typically, a general affidavit is used to establish facts when the person with knowledge of those facts might not be available in person when the testimony is needed. Although the statement is in writing, it is made under oath. Any person presenting false testimony by sworn affidavit is subject to the penalties of perjury.
Although many people will use an attorney to prepare a general affidavit, the format is a simple presentation of four parts. It includes the person’s name and address, a statement of the facts, a statement that the person swears those facts to be true to the best of his knowledge, and the signature and seal of a notary public or other court officer. There are a number of companies that provide pre-printed forms that make the preparation of a general affidavit even easier.
The most important thing to keep in mind about a general affidavit is that it is a sworn legal instrument with the weight of testimony. It must be made voluntarily, and not at the direction of a judge or other legal personnel. The person making the statement must only state those facts that he knows to be true, based on direct observation and experience. The statement also must be signed under oath, sworn in front of a court official such as a notary public.
A person presenting a general affidavit will not be subject to perjury charges if it comes to light that the facts were different than the person believed them to be, or if the facts changed subsequent to the person’s knowledge of the situation. The written statement must merely be truthful at the time made. The person making the statement is presumed to know the contents of the statement and the consequences for presenting untruthful testimony.
General affidavits are used in a wide variety of legal circumstances. Certain legal proceedings, such as custody and immigration cases, have their own specialized types of affidavits, such as an “affidavit of support.” The general affidavit is suitable for any court case or legal declaration for which a format is not specified, such as taking a statement from a witness to an accident, when changing a name, when conducting certain real estate transactions or when registering to vote.