Last Updated on May 11, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team
Sworn statements form a crucial part of the legal and criminal justice systems, and making sure that they are completed and submitted in the correct manner is a priority for anyone involved in law enforcement.
The nature of these statements means that there are specific rules and requirements that must be followed for the statement to be valid, and we will walk you through these in just a few short steps.
What Is A Sworn Statement?
Before we take a closer look at the best way to write and approach a sworn statement, it is a good idea to have a solid understanding of exactly what is meant by the term.
A sworn statement refers to a written statement of fact that is related in some manner to an ongoing legal proceeding. The defendant will have to sign the statement, confirming that everything they have written is true.
They will also have to sign to confirm that they understand that if anything in their statement is found not to be true, then they may be charged with perjury.
There is often confusion and conflation between a sworn statement and an affidavit, but there is one main difference between the two – an affidavit must be witnessed and then sealed by a public official who has the power to witness such as oath – this is typically a public notary.
A sworn statement, on the other hand, does not have to go through this process.
Why Are Sworn Statements Important?
A large element of successful, fair legal proceedings involves ensuring that witnesses are called to give testament, recall their accurate account of events, and helping to ensure that all necessary, relevant facts are heard and understood by both judge and jury.
As part of the process, witnesses are also required to be cross-examined by the opposing party – this helps to clarify things, and provide the most accurate account of events,
In some cases, however, having a witness physically appear in court for the trial is not practical, usually due to logistical or financial concerns.
If, for example, a witness lives abroad, it may not be cost-effective for the court to fly them back simply to give their testimony.
Another issue arises when the witness in question is the victim of the case – in this situation, having to appear to give testimony can be traumatic and, in some cases, dangerous for the witness.
Cross-examination can also be an issue in these situations – a key element of many cross-examinations is an attempt to discredit the witness, frequently by attacking their character.
For victims of sexual assault or other human rights infractions, this can result in secondary trauma. In these circumstances, witness testimony may be replaced by a sworn statement.
Sworn statements can also be useful in helping legal professionals to gather evidence at the scene, or immediately following the incident.
In some cases, this can result in a clearer and more accurate recollection of events, as time has not had an opportunity to distort memories.
When Might Sworn Statements Be Used?
As we have seen a sworn statement may be used instead of an in-person testimonial for a number of reasons, and these include:
- The witness is abroad, and getting them to court for the testimony and cross-examination would not be in the financial interests of the court, or would take a longer than the acceptable length of time to arrange.
- The witness is also the victim of the crime, and attending court to give testimony related to their ordeal could be deemed to be too traumatizing and upsetting – particularly if the defendant is present at the time.
- It is ruled that the witness would be traumatized or upset by the rigorous cross-examination process, which tends to focus on discrediting the witness by attacking their character.
- Time has elapsed since the incidents, and sworn statements made in the immediate aftermath of the incident are available as an alternative – in these situations, the statements are likely to be more accurate and offer a clearer recollection.
- The safety of the witness could not be guaranteed if they were to give evidence in person.
What Needs To Be Included In A Sworn Statement?
If a sworn statement is to be admissible in lieu of a witness statement, there are a few features that must be included, and these are as follows:
- The personal details of the declarant – this includes their name, age, address, and occupation. Depending on the nature and circumstances of the case, additional information may also be required here.
- A detailed description and account of the incident, or incidents, exactly as they occurred.
This includes the time and date of the incident, the location where the incident took place, who was present at the scene, and what was said and done by each person present.
While hearsay evidence must be avoided, it is permissible to include anything that the witness reports having been told by others involved – this can help to paint a clearer picture of the situation.
Information should be included to describe what was said to the witness, when and where it was said, and by whom.
- An endorsement paragraph – this is simply a statement that declares and confirms that the content included in the sworn statement is true to the best of the witness’s knowledge.
The endorsement paragraph also acknowledges that the sworn statement is to be used as evidence in a court of law, and acknowledges that the witness will be charged with perjury if they are found to have lied.
- The signature of the declarant
- The date that the statement is being made
Once completed, the sworn statement will then be made available to the court and used in place of a physical, in-person witness statement.
Sworn statements are an important aspect of ensuring that the legal system and the process of justice runs smoothly, fairly, and with care given to victims of incidents.
It is important, however, to ensure that all sworn statements include the relevant and required information, or they may be inadmissible, and that the witness is honest in their recollection – any subsequent discoveries of falsehoods or lies could result in the witness being charged with perjury.