The Use of Affidavits in Covid-19 Trials

December 7, 2020

Affidavit Definition

An affidavit is a written statement that is voluntarily signed to swear that the information in the statement is true. In a trial, an affidavit can help to legitimize a written statement of someone who can not attend and be sworn in for in-person testimony. 

Some common applications of affidavits include:

  • Verification. Such as verifying the reception of legal documents or your residency.
  • Statements that can be filed in court. Such as that you did not have stolen property or controlled substances.
  • Confirming identity.
  • Claiming property.
  • Confirming the accuracy of business records. 

The information can include personal opinions in addition to facts. If included, the document must clearly identify the statement is an opinion or a belief. A personal opinion must not be presented as fact.

In light of the current pandemic, affidavits may play a greater role, as fewer people can appear for statements. Travel restrictions and online trials may limit or delay the ability to have timely in-person statements.

Of course, that’s not all that is changing. Normally, an affidavit must be signed in-person in front of a notary public or a commissioner at a court or Service Ontario Centre. In light of covid concerns, affidavit signing is seeing new options.

How do I Sign an Affidavit During COVID-19 Quarantine?

With ongoing quarantines, in-person signatures may not be an option. Even where it is possible, many people may not feel safe with an in-person affidavit. To accommodate this, some Ontario courts are making adjustments in how affidavits can be signed.

One such approach is a virtual commission. This commission is performed while webcam with a paralegal or a lawyer. You sign the document, in plain view of them and then send the original, signed document to them. The lawyer or paralegal then signs as the witness.

Although this system can alleviate problems with signing affidavits during quarantine, it has not yet been adopted by all courts. As such, it’s important to verify, in advance, whether or not your court will accept this document. Your lawyer should be able to advise or find out whether or not this is an option for you.

A virtual affidavit is not a perfect solution. For instance, the lawyer cannot see what is happening off-camera. As well, there is a delay between the original signature and the witness signature. However, for many people, it is the best option available at the moment.

Virtual Commissions are just one more way that the Justice system is evolving to meet the needs of COVID-19 and adapting to ever-expanding digital capabilities.

Toronto Criminal Defence Lawyer

If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, your best defence is a criminal lawyer. William Jaksa is a Toronto criminal defence lawyer who helps you understand your charges, your options, and their potential outcomes.

Contact William Jaksa today for a consultation.

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