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An affidavit is statement of facts which is sworn to (or affirmed) before an officer who has authority to administer an oath (e.g. a notary public). The person making the signed statement (affiant) takes an oath that the contents are, to the best of their knowledge, true.
It is also signed by a notary or some other judicial officer that can administer oaths, affirming that the person signing the affidavit was under oath when doing so. These documents are valuable to presenting evidence in court when a witness is unavailable to testify in person. Affidavits may preserve the testimony of persons who are unable to appear in court due to illness, incarceration, moving out-of-state, death, etc.
Judges frequently accept an affidavit instead of the testimony of the witness and are used in place of live testimony in many circumstances (for example, when a motion is filed, a supporting affidavit may be filed with it).