Perjury is defined as (1) having taken an oath before a competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any case in which a law of the United States authorizes an oath to be administered, that he will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly, or that any written testimony, declaration, deposition, or certificate by him subscribed, is true, willfully and contrary to such oath states or subscribes any material matter which he does not believe to be true (2) in any declaration, certificate, verification, or statement under penalty of perjury as permitted under section 1746 of title of 28, Unites States Code, willfully subscribes as true any material matter which he does not believe to be true; is guilty of perjury and shall, except as otherwise expressly provide by law be fined under the title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
In order for a defendant to be found guilty of perjury, the prosecutor must prove all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. A prosecutor must prove that defendant was under oath during his testimony, declaration or certificate, unless the perjurious statement is an unsworn declaration permitted by 28 U.S.C. § 1746. Additional a prosecutor must prove that defendant made a false statement or told a lie on purpose. For example a prosecutor can prove that a defendant lied during a testimony by showing inconsistency in prior statements made by the defendant.
Perjury is a crime of intent. A defendant charged with perjury can only be found guilty if the prosecutor is able to show beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant intended to make the false statement under oath.
The following defenses may be applicable for perjury:
– Defendant did not intend to lie
– Defendant believed the statement to be the true at the time they made it
– If a defendant made a mistake by remembering facts inaccurately it is not an intentional misstatement. Thus, one can argue that defendant made an error or that defendant cannot be found guilty of perjury
State and Federal penalties for perjury include fines and/or prison terms upon conviction. Federal law states that anyone found guilty of the crime will be fined or imprisoned for up to five years. Most State laws have similar provisions, but judges have discretion to use leniency.
Perjury is considered a serious crime against the integrity of the justice system. If you have been charged with the crime of perjury or have additional questions, please be sure to consult with a local attorney near you such as the Criminal Defense Attorney San Francisco locals turn to.
Thanks to authors at The Morales Law Firm for their insight into Criminal Law.