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What is a Complaint Affidavit?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A complaint affidavit is a sworn statement prepared by someone who wishes to file a legal complaint. Such statements are filed when people wish to file suit against someone for a violation of civil law and they can also be involved in criminal cases, when a victim files a formal complaint with the assistance of law enforcement. The complaint affidavit becomes the basis for the case, providing basic information about the facts of the matter and outlining the nature of the case. This document is part of the court record maintained on the case and can be inspected by anyone reviewing the record.

In a complaint affidavit, the complainant clearly spells out the facts of the situation, providing as much detail as possible. The date and time of the incident in question are noted and the document describes what happened and how. People who witnessed the incident may be identified and the document also discusses any action taken by law enforcement. Identifying information about the defendant is also provided. When a person brings a complaint affidavit to court with the intention of filing a civil suit, a summons form is also filled out to alert the defendant to the fact that a complaint has been filed.

In addition to being used in civil suits, there are other uses for such documents. A person who feels that a doctor, lawyer, or other member of a professional organization failed to discharge professional duties properly can file a complaint affidavit with the certifying organization. The complaint will trigger an investigation into the situation and the board will determine whether the person should be stripped of professional certification and membership in the organization or disciplined in other ways, such as with a suspension or fine.

People who have experienced crimes can file a complaint affidavit asking law enforcement to follow up on the crime and pursue the matter in court. This document is reviewed by investigators, as well as people like the prosecutor, while they investigate and build a case and determine if the case is strong enough to take to court. The sworn statement is usually taken as soon as possible after the crime, while the memories are fresh and before the victim has been influenced by thinking about the crime and discussing it with other people.

When preparing a complaint affidavit, people can use a form generated by a court or law enforcement agency, and they can also write a complaint from scratch. The document should be carefully reviewed before signing and if information turns out to be incorrect, an amendment should be filed to correct it.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Telsyst — On Mar 09, 2014

Although referred to broadly as an affidavit, the actual charges, whether criminal or civil, are part of a complaint.

Meanwhile, the affidavit encompasses the information provided for background, such as the complainant's relationship to the party being charged or sued and the facts that led up to the charges being filed.

No matter what terminology applies, the article is correct. Someone swearing out an affidavit must be 100% certain the facts are accurate before signing the document.

If it is found that false allegations are made or if the complainant changes their story in the case of a court proceeding, the case will most likely be thrown out and the complainant charged with perjury.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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