A sworn statement is a legal document that contains facts that are relevant to a court case. Sworn statements are different from affidavits, in that sworn statements are not usually signed or certified by a notary public. Sworn statements are typically entered into evidence for personal injury cases and other types of legal proceedings. To explore this concept, consider the following sworn statement definition.
Definition of Sworn Statement
- A legal document containing facts that are relevant to a legal proceeding.
Origin of Sworn
Pre 900 A.D. Middle English sweren
What is a Sworn Statement
A sworn statement is a document that contains facts that are relevant to a legal proceeding. Sworn statements are similar to affidavits, however, unlike affidavits, they are not required to be signed, witnessed, or sealed by a notary public. Instead, the person making the statement signs a paragraph at the end of the document acknowledging that the facts within the statement are true to his knowledge, and being made under penalty of perjury.
A sworn statement may only be substituted for an affidavit when permitted by statute. In certain cases, sworn statements can be used only for the purposes granted by law. Otherwise, in the federal courts and some states, general statutes allow for a sworn statement to be used in any matter wherein an affidavit would be accepted as well.
A sworn statement is understood to be a form of testifying under oath. It must be written clearly, as the person making the statement may not be present in court when it is read. The more clearly the statement is written, the less room there is for misinterpretation that could potentially have negative effects on the outcome of the case.
An example of a sworn statement being used in court might occur in a personal injury case. Here, a witness might confirm an important fact for the court, without actually appearing in court. This might be a sworn statement from a personal trainer, confirming that the plaintiff had a preexisting back injury. This would lessen the impact of the plaintiff’s claim that he sustained a back injury in the accident. Another use of a sworn statement might come from an individual who can confirm whether or not a party was in a certain place at a certain time.
The court may, in certain situations, allow such a statement to be submitted in lieu of forcing the person to make an appearance in court. Another example of a sworn statement being accepted by the court is if the person making the statement lives too far away to attend the legal proceedings but still has information that is important to the case. In most cases, however, the court prefers to have a Notary Public confirm the identity of the person signing the statement.
Difference Between Sworn Statement and Sworn Affidavit
Sworn statements and affidavits are similar types of documents. The difference between a sworn statement and a sworn affidavit, however, is that affidavits are signed, witnessed, and certified by a public official, such as a notary public. A notary public is an official who is responsible for acting as an impartial witness for the purpose of ensuring that important documents are signed properly.
The certification granted by a notary’s jurat, or stamp and signature, makes a document an even more acceptable piece of evidence. This is because a notary makes a document official by ensuring that the person or persons who came before him were, in fact, who they said they were. By verifying the identity of the person making the statement, then any facts within that statement can be attributed to the person making them. That person can then be punished under perjury if it turns out that one of those “facts” is actually a lie.
Another difference between a sworn statement and a sworn affidavit is that courts would typically rather enter an affidavit into evidence over a sworn statement. This is largely because of the notary jurat that declares an affidavit to be an official document. The primary advantage of a sworn statement over a signed statement lies in the fact that the sworn statement is made under “penalty of perjury.” This means that the individual can be legally held to count for the contents of the statement, potentially facing serious legal penalties if anything in the statement turns out to be untrue.
How to Prepare a Sworn Statement
It is important to know how to prepare a sworn statement properly. If there are any miscommunications in the statement, they may be mistaken for perjury, which can carry serious consequences. Failing that, the statements made may simply be taken out of context, which can result in an entirely different outcome of the case. The words written in a sworn statement become part of the court record, and the statement is considered a form of testifying under oath.
It is also important to be aware of how to prepare a sworn statement in the correct way because it needs to be understood by everyone, especially the court. This is because the person making the statement may not be present in court when it is read. The statement needs to be written in such a way as to ensure that no one will need further explanation after reading it. It must be written carefully and thoroughly.
Required Elements of a Sworn Statement
There are several required elements of a sworn statement that ensure that the statement will be accepted as a legal document. First, it is imperative that a sworn statement be as detailed as possible, and written in the first-person. Exaggerations and opinions should be left out. All a statement should consist of is straight facts, including events listed chronologically. The person writing the statement should use his full, legal name, and he should date the document with the date he signs it.
One of the most important required elements of a sworn statement is the clause at the bottom, in which the person making the statement acknowledges that the information he has provided is true and complete to the best of his knowledge. This shows that he is aware that he is asserting these facts under oath, and that he may be punished under penalty of perjury if he is lying.
Example Sworn Statement Declaration of Truth
A sworn statement isn’t “sworn” if there is not a declaration of truth. This is an example of the language that might be used in the final paragraph of the sworn statement, just above the date and signature block:
I, [insert name], certify, under penalty of perjury of the state of [insert state], that the information provided herein is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.
Sworn Statement Example Involving Prosecutorial Misconduct
In 1984, Catherine Fuller, mother of six, was found dead on the floor of a commercial garage. She had been beaten badly, and sexually assaulted before she died. Over the following months, police made 17 arrests in the case, including 19-year-old Christopher Turner. Turner described the incident to police, telling how, when Fuller walked by the group of young men, they split into two groups and attacked her.
Turner’s attorney argued that he didn’t take part in the murder, though neither did he do anything to stop it, or report it. He also argued that there were many people, including street vendors, who didn’t report the crime. After long deliberation, and many hours, the jury eventually found Turner guilty of murder.
There were problems with the convictions in the rape and murder of Catherine Fuller. The group of men convicted were known to be members of a dangerous gang that instilled fear on the residents and business owners in the community. There was no physical evidence connecting any of the men to Fuller’s murder. Along after Turner was sent to prison, witnesses who had testified against the perpetrators submitted sworn statements retracting their testimonies.
Perhaps the most troubling piece of the puzzle is that prosecutors allegedly never turned over statements they received from three separate witnesses that would have placed another suspect at the scene that day. James McMillan – the other man – was seen leaving the area where the woman was found, just before she was found. McMillan was eventually caught and convicted of other similar crimes against women. However, in this case, sworn statements were both submitted and shuffled under the carpet, and submitted recanting prior testimony.
Turner spent decades in prison for his alleged connection to the crime after his conviction in 1985, until he was finally paroled in 2011. At the time of the murder, Turner was fresh out of high school and was working a job tutoring local children. His goal was to find a way to leave town and find something better for himself.
Turner had no criminal record and was sure he was going to be acquitted. He claims that even the U.S. Marshals believed his innocence and were in the process of drafting up his exit paperwork while the jury was deliberating at his trial. However, jurors found Turner guilty, even after two boys who lived in the neighborhood testified to and admitted their guilt at trial.
Barry Pollack, Turner’s lawyer, believes that prosecutorial misconduct is partly to blame. There was no physical evidence connecting any of the accused to the crime scene. Further, the two men who plead guilty to the crime actually received shorter prison terms than Turner’s in exchange for their cooperation. Two witnesses from the neighborhood testified and then submitted sworn statements to retract their testimony.
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Perjury – The willful telling of an untruth, or giving of false testimony, after having taken an oath.