What is an Affidavit of Character?

Eric Misener

An affidavit of character is a sworn statement by a person vouching for the good moral character of someone. The person vouched for might be the affiant himself or herself, or it could be another person. Such affidavits are used for a wide variety of legal and administrative purposes.

A person may be required to file an affidavit of good moral character when applying for a license to run a daycare center.
A person may be required to file an affidavit of good moral character when applying for a license to run a daycare center.

Affidavits are used quite commonly by the legal system and various government entities for several purposes. An affidavit is a sworn statement by a person, known as the affiant, setting forth certain facts that the affiant knows to be true. It usually consists of a brief statement of those facts and is signed by the affiant in front of a person who is legally authorized to administer an oath. The authorized person varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but in most places, it would be a judge, a magistrate, a designated government official or a notary public.

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.

As part of a subset of affidavits in general, an affidavit of character can take myriad forms and might be used for many disparate purposes. What all affidavits of character have in common, however, is that the affiant is attesting that someone is a good person and therefore worthy of being trusted with some responsibility. This is often in the context of receiving some privilege from the government that is not available to the population at large.

A person's faith may be used as a testament of their character.
A person's faith may be used as a testament of their character.

In some places, for example, one must file an affidavit of good moral character for oneself when applying for a license to run a daycare center or nursing home. In such an affidavit, a person swears that she has never been arrested or convicted of certain crimes under the law. Applying for other licenses, such as a license to own a handgun or a teaching license, might require an affidavit of character to be filed by a person or several people who know the individual applying for the license. Usually, the affiant of an affidavit of character for another person must be unrelated to the subject of the affidavit, either by blood or by marriage.

An affidavit of character might include selfless acts a person has committed.
An affidavit of character might include selfless acts a person has committed.

In a legal setting, affidavits of character are sometimes required when one is requesting a pardon from an executive authority for a crime for which one has been convicted. They can be used in certain immigration cases in the U.S. as a piece of general background evidence for a person attempting to avoid deportation or gain some legal status. Historically, an affidavit of character could be used in a lawsuit to attest to a party’s good standing in the community, especially if the witness was unavailable to testify. Modern courts generally make much less use of affidavits in a trial setting, because they usually run afoul of the modern hearsay rules.

An affidavit of character might detail the care a person provides for dependents.
An affidavit of character might detail the care a person provides for dependents.
An affidavit of character might be used in cases dealing with immigration.
An affidavit of character might be used in cases dealing with immigration.

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