Category: 

What Is Perjury Law?

A woman taking an oath to tell the truth. Someone who lies under oath might be charged with perjury.
Article Details
  • Written By: Contel Bradford
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 03 April 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
There has never been a documented human death associated with a tarantula bite.  more...

April 19 ,  1775 :  The American Revolution began.  more...

Perjury law is legislation that finds a witness guilty of the crime of lying under oath or other forms of testimony. The crime of perjury is considered a serious offense, and one that could result in hefty penalties for the accused. A perjury penalty may include, but is not limited to, probation, community service, having to pay restitution, and considerable jail time.

While it is primarily associated with the court setting, perjury law may also apply to other situations. In fact, making false statements in any form of written testimony could result in a perjury charge. Common examples include lying in a police statement, civil deposition, or other document a witness has signed to validate that the information he or she has provided is factual and accurate. Collaborating or even intimidating someone else to lie under such circumstances could also result in an individual being charged with perjury or a similar law known as subordination of perjury.

Although the violation of perjury law is something the legal system does not take lightly, actually proving this offense is not always easy. The prosecution is responsible for presenting a case that shows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that an individual has lied during the said form of testimony. This generally includes proving the individual clearly understood the question and knowingly provided misleading or inaccurate information, among other factors.

Ad

Perjury law usually calls for a felony conviction regardless of the sentencing. So even if jail time is not handed down as a penalty, the accused individual will likely have a blemish that remains on his or her criminal record forever. If the individual has been convicted of perjury in the past, there is a great chance that the courts will enforce the maximum sentence in order to indicate the seriousness of the offense.

According to rules enforced by the United States Supreme Court, a witness who provides misleading information, but tells the "literal" truth, is not in violation of perjury law. This has lead to a defense strategy termed as literal truth defense. Many attorneys encourage US defendants to adopt this strategy when being questioned to elude a perjury charge.

Perjury law is nothing to play around with. Anyone accused of this offense could be facing significant jail time, so consulting with an experienced perjury lawyer as soon as possible is highly advisable. Despite the seriousness of such a crime, defendants have the legal right to protect themselves and prove their innocence.

Ad

Discuss this Article

serenesurface
Post 3

@feruze-- Literal truth defense is when a defendant gives answers that are "literally true" but conceals another piece of information at the same time.

A super simple example would be if you asked a defendant if he has apples and he tells you that he has pears. The defendant has not lied here because he really does have pears, but he has apples too! So he is answering in a way that hides the truth or avoids saying it, so to speak.

It's true that you can give the literal truth in court but it doesn't always mean that it will protect you from perjury. I have heard of several cases where literal truth statements were still considered as perjury and those people were sentenced. It might be a good idea to check court practices and case examples in your particular state. I think there are some variations from state to state.

burcidi
Post 2

@feruze-- I think such documents can only be used for a perjury accusation if you declared it under penalty of perjury. So if you ever agree and sign a statement that includes " I declare under the penalty of perjury..." then you are accepting that responsibility. It's sort of like taking an oath in court and it will be just as admissable in court. You should never sign that statement unless you have included the correct information in that document to the best of your knowledge.

bear78
Post 1

Often many official documents, tax forms, loan forms and so forth require that we sign the form agreeing that everything in the form is true. Can this be used against us as an accusation of perjury if false information is found in it?

How does the court go about proving it?

Can you also give some more information on literal truth defense? I'm a little confused about what that means.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email