Difference Between Affidavit and Witness Statement

Affidavit vs Witness Statement

Affidavits and witness statements are common legal documents used in both criminal and civil law cases. Due to the similarity of the nature of these documents, it is very common to assume that both of these words mean the same . However, knowing the true nature of these two documents will help discern the differences between the two more succinctly.

What is an Affidavit?

An affidavit, derived from the medieval Latin and translated as “he/she has declared upon oath,” is a written sworn statement of fact made voluntarily under an affirmation or oath. This is done so by a deponent or an affiant before a person who is authorized by law to do so such as a commissioner of oath or a notary public. An affidavit is consisted of verification under oath or penalty of perjury serving as evidence of its veracity as required by court proceedings. An affidavit can be drafted to obtain a declaration on a legal document such as voter registration stating that the information provided is truthful to the best of the applicant’s knowledge. An affidavit can be written either in first or third person according to the person who is drafting it. If in first person, the affidavit is required to contain a commencement, an attestation clause and signatures of the author and witness. If notarized, it will also require a caption with a title and venue in reference to judicial proceedings.

What is a Witness Statement?

A witness statement can be defined as a recording of what a witness heard or saw signed by the person in question to confirm that the contents of the document are true. In UK, witness statements are described as a “written statement signed by a person which contains the evidence which that person would be allowed to give orally” while, in USA, a witness statement is eschewed in favour of a process of discovery including deposition of key witnesses before trial. Witness statements provide basic information pertaining to a person’s observations and they maybe used as a tool during legal proceedings.

What is the difference between an Affidavit and a Witness Statement?

An affidavit and a witness statement are both documents that can be presented as tools during legal proceedings. However, several differences exist in the nature of these two documents which give them different purposes and definitions.

• An affidavit is a sworn document under oath of perjury and, therefore, is considered a truthful statement. A witness statement is not a sworn document. It merely states the observations of a person.

• Affidavits are notarized, giving them a significant weight in legal proceedings. Witness statements are merely signed by the person making the statement.

• Witness statements give basic information based on what a person observes during a certain incident. An affidavit is a more thoroughly researched document.

• Witness statements can be used as tools during legal proceedings or merely as a means of refreshing a witness’s memory. An affidavit can be used as solid evidence in a court case and is generally regarded as the truth.

• If the content of an affidavit is found to be untrue, the person responsible is punishable by law. Such penalty is not imposed upon a witness statement since there is no way of proving the veracity of a witness statement.

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