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A declarant is someone who makes a statement in either written or oral form and indicates that the statement is true. Declarants can face legal penalties for falsifying statements, and these penalties vary depending on the situation and the nation in which the transgression occurs. In some regions, the term “declarant” is used to describe a signatory to a contract or the writer of a will. A closely related term is “affiant,” used to describe someone who makes a statement in the presence of a public official who can witness the statement and the oath made by the affiant.
The concept of a declarant can come up with hearsay testimony. Someone on the stand might say, for example, “I heard her say that she intended to take the car out that day.” In this case, the “her” in the testimony is the declarant, and the witness is relaying the declarant's statement secondhand. This type of testimony is often inadmissible unless there is a reason the declarant cannot be present. For example, if she took the car out and died in an accident, she would be unavailable to testify in court about what she said.
In order for a declarant's statement to be accepted, it is often necessary to demonstrate that the declarant had full mental capacity at the time that the statement was made. This includes an ability to understand the consequences of the statement, and an understanding of the potential penalties for falsifying a statement. In the case of a will, for example, the declarant must have testamentary capacity, the legal capacity to make a binding will.
When someone is asked to make a statement and swear or affirm that it is true, it is important to review the statement carefully, and to make any changes before confirming that it is true. For example, when someone signs insurance declarations in conjunction with an insurance policy, the declarations should be read, and any errors should be corrected. An example might be a declaration which says that “Jane Doe is the only driver of this vehicle.” If Jane's husband John also drives the car and she signs this declaration and affirms that it is true, she could be subject to legal penalties such as having the insurance policy canceled without warning.
Any time someone is asked to sign a legal document or to make a legally binding statement, care should be taken. If someone is pressured to act quickly or is not allowed to see the document being signed, she or he should refuse to sign and should explain why.
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