A statement of facts is a legal document that sets forward factual information without argument. These documents are used in a variety of legal settings, ranging from appeals to filing vehicle registration paperwork. Depending on the context, a statement may be prepared by a legal professional, or it may consist of a form with options to check.
The goal of a statement of facts is not to put forward an argument, but rather to present factual information in a clear, easy to understand way. That said, many lawyers may make implicit arguments in the document, using a variety of tricks to sway the reader to one point of view or another. Typically, these arguments are designed to paint someone in a favorable light, or to dismiss the reliability of someone else. For example, one might say “the witness said that she saw Mr. Jones leave the building,” or it could say “the witness, who later proved to be intoxicated, claimed that she saw Mr. Jones leave the building.” These two different framings can lead to very different interpretations of the same piece of information.
Commonly, a statement of facts is included in a legal brief, especially as part of an appeals process. It is designed to provide information for the judge in a case about the sequence of events, along with circumstances which may have affected those events. In appeals, it may focus heavily on problems with the previous trial, such as bored jury members who failed to listen to instructions, or contentious testimony which was later struck, but might have influenced the jury.
Paperwork for things like registering a car, applying for health insurance, or matriculating at school often includes this type of information. The applicant is expected to check relevant boxes on the document and then sign it, indicating that the information is factually correct. If the statement later proves to be untrue, the applicant could be faced with legal repercussions, such as perjury charges.
The art of preparing a written statement of facts is quite complex. People who are required to provide written statements for various reasons may want to consider consulting a lawyer or someone with excellent native language skills to ensure that the statement is flawlessly organized. In the case of one that involves checkboxes or the filling in of various fields, the issue is much less complicated, although an awareness of the potential legal consequences for lying is a good thing to keep in mind.