Statutory declarations are commonly used to allow a person to declare something to be true for the purposes of satisfying some legal requirement or regulation when no other evidence is available. They are thus similar to affidavits, which, however, are made on oath.
Depending on jurisdiction, statutory declarations can be used for:
- Declarations of identity, nationality, marital status, etc. when documentary evidence is unavailable.
- Declaring the intention to change one's name.
- Affirming the provenance and nature of goods for export or import.
- Statements of originality for patent applications.
Australian law defines a statutory declaration as a written statement declared to be true in the presence of an authorised witness. The Statutory Declarations Act 1959 governs the use of statutory declarations in matters involving the law of the Australian Commonwealth, Australian Capital Territory, and other territories but not including the Northern Territory.
Any person within the jurisdiction of this law may make a statutory declaration in relation to any matter. The declaration may be used in connection with matters of law, including judicial proceedings, but what weight is given to the declaration is a matter for the judge to decide.
Statutory declarations must be made in a prescribed form and witnessed by a person as specified in the Statutory Declarations Regulations (1993). Prescribed witnesses include legal and medical practitioners, justices of the peace, notaries public, police officers, military officers, registered members of certain professional organisations (i.e. National Tax Accountant's Association and Institution of Engineers Australia), and certain other Commonwealth employees.
Intentionally making a false statement as a statutory declaration is a crime equivalent to perjury, and punishable by fines and/or a prison sentence of up to four years.
The states of Australia each have their own laws regarding statutory declarations.
In Canadian jurisdictions, statutory declarations are statements of facts written down and attested to by the declarant before individuals who are authorized to administer oaths except that they are normally used outside of court settings. They have the same effect in law as a sworn statement or affidavit. In federal proceedings, the form is governed by the Canada Evidence Act. Similar provision is made by the various provinces for use in proceedings within their respective jurisdictions.
Although the terminology statutory declaration is not used frequently in the United States, unsworn declarations may invoke a statute that makes such a declaration the functional equivalent of a sworn affidavit.
Statutory declarations can be used as a method of legally changing one's name. They may be used by UK financial institutions to enable an asset of a relatively small value (usually less than £15,000) to be transferred to the executors of a will or other persons legally entitled to deal with or benefit from the estate of a person who has died.
England and Wales
Under the Statutory Declarations Act 1835, a declaration can be made before anyone who is authorised by law to hear it (for example, a solicitor or legal executive), or before any justice of the peace. In addition, officers of the armed services with the equivalent rank of major and above, and British diplomatic and consular officers in post abroad, may authenticate a statutory declaration.
The person who hears the declaration need not enquire into the truth of it. That person's function is limited to hearing the declaration, and certifying that he or she has done so by signing it. If the declaration turns out to be untrue, the defendant making it may be punished for perjury.
The form of the statutory declaration is prescribed in the schedule to the Act:
"I (full name), do solemnly and sincerely declare that the contents of this declaration are true. And I make this declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true and by virtue of the provisions of the Statutory Declarations Act 1835."
A standard form is used for a statutory declaration; one copy will be given to the applicant and the other is held on file.
- Canada Evidence Act, RSC 1985, c C-5, s 41.
- "INSTRUCTIONS TO PERSONS AUTHORIZED TO ADMINISTER OATHS, AFFIRMATIONS AND SOLEMN DECLARATIONS WITHIN THE PROVINCE OF ALBERTA" (PDF). Retrieved 28 June 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46, s 131.
- 28 USC 1746 (federal statutory declaration). See also, e.g., 735 ILCS 5/1-109 (Illinois statutory declaration)
- CAB Statutory declaration of change of name for adults (Scotland)
- Statutory Declarations Act 1835 Extent England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland
- section 12(1)(f) and Schedule 2 Legal Services Act 2007. See also: Institute of Paralegals
- Passport policy - Statutory Declarations
- Statutory Declarations Act 1835 [1835 c. 62 (Regnal. 5_and_6_Will_4)]
- Adult Court Book Bench, page 180. Judicial College, 2017
- Statutory Declaration Form as laid down by the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980, section 14 and Criminal Procedure Rules, rule 37.11.