A declaration is an unsworn statement or assertion, either written or spoken, made by a person who has some knowledge of the facts in the case.
- A “declaration against interest” is a statement sufficiently adverse to the declarant's benefit, that it is reasonable to assume that the statement is true. For example, “sorry officer I didn't mean to be driving 90 in a 30 mile an hour zone,” is a declaration against interest.
- A “dying declaration” is a statement about the cause or circumstances surrounding his or her death by a person who believes he or she is going to die.
- A “declaration of pain” is a person's exclamation of his or her present pain.
- A “declaration of state of mind” is a statement that describes what the declarant is thinking or feeling. For example, if the declarant said, “who could ever leave Los Angeles, with all of its beautiful weather?” could be offered as evidence of the declarant's intention to stay in Los Angeles, or that the declarant actually did stay in Los Angles in accordance with his or her declaration.
When the declarant is not available to testify in person at trial, these types of declarations are usually admissible as an exception to the hearsay rule (i.e., someone else can testify about what the declarant said).
In California, people who have been charged with a traffic violation can fight the ticket by way of “Trial by Declaration.” In a Trial by Declaration, the defendant is allowed to send an explanation to the judge instead of appearing in court in person. The judge then makes a decision based on the statements in the declaration. If the defendant is found guilty in the trial by declaration, he is still allowed to fight the ticket in court.