What is a Federal Affidavit?

G.W. Poulos

A federal affidavit is an affidavit filed or submitted to an office that has federal authority in some jurisdiction or area of responsibility, such as a federal court or tax collecting authority. The term affidavit itself comes from Medieval Latin and means, “he who has sworn an oath.” Hence, a federal affidavit is a form, letter or other written instrument filed with an office of a federal government bearing some statement or set of facts that the author has sworn to be the truth under an oath.

When preparing an affidavit, a person typically writes down all of the relevant facts concerning the legal matter.
When preparing an affidavit, a person typically writes down all of the relevant facts concerning the legal matter.

Considered by many to be a legal document used only in a courtroom, a federal affidavit can actually be any written statement that a person or organization files with any federal authority. For example, signing a statement given to a federal law enforcement officer, such as a federal marshal, and swearing it to be the truth is in fact a federal affidavit and carries with it all the same legal consequences as if had been given to a federal court. Signing a federal tax return swearing the information contained in it to be true is also a form of a federal affidavit.

When a suit is filed with a federal court, a federal affidavit usually accompanies the filing. This affidavit typically lays out the plaintiff’s case and, having been sworn to be true, initiates the legal action. As the case progresses, there may be other affidavits entered into evidence. Examples of these might be affidavits from the defendant or others swearing the case to be unfounded or affidavits that provide factual evidence from individuals or organizations that both sides accept to be factual without direct testimony in the courtroom. There are also instances wherein a federal affidavit is entered into evidence in lieu of direct testimony in order to protect the identity of an individual whose well-being might be jeopardized should his or her identity become known.

A federal affidavit usually is written in a specific format for reason of legal uniformity, though it need not necessarily be so. This format usually starts with a statement called a commencement, which identifies the affiant, the person giving the statement, and the reasons the statements are being made. Next follows the averments, which is a list of statements or facts made in the document that are usually numbered for clarity.

After the averments comes a statement of fact, which clearly states that the averments given are truthful and factual, to the best of the affiant’s knowledge. It also acknowledges that making any false statement on the affidavit will carry with it the charge of perjury. Finally, the attestation, referred to as a jurat in some legal jurisdictions, is applied to the document by a third party, such as a notary public or court officer. It states a number of pertinent facts regarding the affidavit, including who made the statements in the affidavit, who swore an oath declaring the affidavit to be true, who administered the oath, who witnessed the oath, when the oath was sworn, and where it was sworn.

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