What are Perjury Charges?

Charity Delich

Perjury charges are accusations brought against a person for knowingly making false statements after taking an oath to tell the truth. As a general rule, these charges are filed regarding a civil or criminal case in which the false statements materially impacted the investigation or the case at hand. The act of perjury is criminal in nature and is usually considered a felony. If charges of perjury are proven, the defendant may face hefty fines. The defendant may also be sentenced to serious prison time — up to 15 or more years in some cases.

An individual charged with perjury may spend serious time behind bars.
An individual charged with perjury may spend serious time behind bars.

In order to prove perjury charges, the prosecution usually needs to show that the defendant gave a false statement under oath. In addition, the prosecution must also demonstrate that the defendant knew the statement was false. Typically, the defendant must have lied about an issue that was material to the case. If a witness to a murder case lied about his or her birth date, for example, perjury would not have been committed because the birth date would have nothing to do with the murder. On the other hand, if the witness lied about finding the murder weapon, perjury may have been committed.

Someone who lies under oath might be charged with perjury.
Someone who lies under oath might be charged with perjury.

Although the elements of perjury charges sound straightforward, they can be difficult to prove. Defense attorneys may, for instance, argue that the prosecutor’s questions were not worded clearly, which impacted the defendant’s answer. Additionally, a defendant may claim that he or she misspoke based on a faulty memory rather than intending to deliberately lie to the court. Statements that are merely misleading or ambiguous usually do not rise to the level of perjury. Instead, the law requires that the statement be completely false.

In the United States, perjury under oath is often charged as a felony.
In the United States, perjury under oath is often charged as a felony.

Subornation of perjury, which is also a crime, occurs when one person convinces another person to lie while under oath. It can take place in either a criminal or a civil case. For example, if a lawyer lies during a closing statement in court, the lawyer may be charged with subornation of perjury. A lawyer may also be found guilty of subornation of perjury if the lawyer allows or convinces a witness to lie while under oath. Lawyers found guilty of subornation of perjury can be disciplined or disbarred. In some cases, they may even face jail time.

Other individuals can also be convicted of subornation of perjury. For instance, suppose that a defendant in a theft case coerces a witness into lying on the stand by stating the defendant was with the witness in another city at the time of the theft. The defendant may be charged with subornation of perjury for encouraging the witness to make a false statement in court. In that scenario, perjury charges may also be brought against the witness for lying while under oath.

Perjury charges are rarely filed unless the lie could change the outcome of the case.
Perjury charges are rarely filed unless the lie could change the outcome of the case.

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Discussion Comments


I was arrested and the arresting officer wrote a sworn statement, where she lied and said she read my constitutional rights, which she did not do. She also said I came to the police station together with a complainant. These are lies and are all written in her arrest report.

Can I bring perjury charges against the officer concerned?


I need advice. My ex-husband and I divorced in 2011. We have 50/50 custody of our kids but he gets the majority because he remained in the county the kids go to school in. I moved to the next county over because he was stalking me and I needed something of a buffer. I did not know this would keep me from seeing my kids! My ex is famous for threatening to kill himself if he doesn’t have me or doesn’t have our children. He has not only said this to the three of us, but has also tried three times and been Baker Acted because of it. He now tells our children frequently that if they do not choose to stay with him, he will kill himself. Our kids are so distraught. Four times now, under oath, my ex has stated that a) he’s never tried to kill himself, b) hasn’t tried to kill himself in the last five years and c) hasn’t had any run ins with law enforcement.

In the past five years, he’s been Baker Acted twice for trying to kill himself and has had to be tased and batoned twice. He has threatened to kill me, the kids and then himself via suicide by cop and his own father called it in. Now he’s standing in court saying he’s never laid a hand on me and I am completely floored.

I’ve filed perjury charges out of my butt, and no one seems to look at it. Today, I found out he’s lying to the judge again, so I do the rounds again. First, I talk to the clerk of court who tells me that I need to go to the sheriff’s office first, then the sheriff’s office and police department say they don’t take perjury reports that I need to go to the states attorney’s office, then the state attorney’s office says that the police aren’t doing their job and should take the report and that the state’s attorneys office can’t do anything without a report. I need help!

This has been going on since January 2012. Also, I had a restraining order against him and I contacted my local police department in my county. They spoke with my ex, who admitted to breaking the injunction seven times in two weeks. My county law enforcement couldn’t do anything because he lives in the next county over, and the police in that county refused to do anything to him. They told me, just don’t answer your phone and ignore him. Any advice?


What happens when a person lies in a preliminary hearing?


My ex used a vacated court order from our first judge, who has since retired, to obtain an emergency pickup order from our new judge. He knew this was wrong. In fact, he didn't show the entire first page to the judge that showed it had been vacated.

He also perjured himself at the emergency hearing. He stated he had rights to my daughter. He implied he did not have any custody. He stated he had not tried for custody before, when in fact, he did on the vacated order a year earlier – twice. He also failed to tell the judge he entered his own DNA to the court to prove he wasn't the father. He wanted no responsibility. He harassed me so much. He turned my electricity off constantly, among other things, and was telling everyone I worked with I was on Bipolar medication, which is not true. I found out he was showing some document he made up for the police and my child's school to say I was crazy. I wondered why the police were never helping me.

I finally talked to a police officer because someone robbed me and I found this out, along with the officer telling me he witnessed the robbery because my ex told the police he was allowed (with my permission) to enter my home. The officer wrote a statement on my behalf. My ex told the court this at another emergency hearing where my attorney and I weren't notified. The judge held a meeting and gave sole custody to my ex. He stated that the police officers stated I put drugs in his car. What? I haven't been near him in two years.

I returned the police report and it stated no such thing. In fact, the police officer said he was sick of dealing with my ex's lies. Oh, there's about 12 serious concrete perjury incidents I can prove. My daughter had not seen him in two years. She was two when she last saw him. All of a sudden, my daughter is taken away from me. She is now 6 years old and the judge will not listen to my testimony. He said I needed to deal with it and move on.

I have had my civil rights taken away. I haven't had due process. My child hasn't seen me for months. My ex is trying to remove her completely from my life along with her brother and my family. His family is him and his mother. She was taken from all her cousins and family who are blood related. I have recorded calls from her and when he's not trying to force her to call him daddy, he's dictating her calls. She has said several times she hates him and his mother hurts her. She says she is scared of his mother. Yes, I was too. I have exhausted all my funds -- 65k in a year and have nothing because the judge will not listen. I went to the bar and even higher. I'm waiting on that letter. Meanwhile, my question is, can I file for perjury and have him arrested? I have police and court reports backing up my story.


@anon277915: I have an idea. You could file a charge against him for stalking and harassing you. Send him a cease and desist letter. There is no way he could prove his case (at least it seems this way to me).


I plead not guilty to running a stop sign. My argument was that the stop sign could not be seen. I contacted the city to find out if the stop sign had been moved in the recent past and the person at the city told me yes, but did not give me a date. I used a specific date in court of when the stop sign had been moved but still lost the case and had to pay the fine for running the stop sign.

Five months later, I have been charged with a class 4 perjury felony that I lied about what the man at the city told me. The court documents said that the officer conducted his own investigation after the court date and after talking to the city worker found my statements to be untrue.

He filed a complaint with the county attorney who served me a summons and now I have to hire an attorney. All attorneys so far are saying this is unheard of but tell me that I am still in a serious situation.


@BoniJ - I'll try my best to explain. First of all, when you are under oath, you have promised to tell the truth. Then if you tell a lie on purpose, you may have committed perjury. If the lie you tell has something to do with the crime or case, then you will be charged with perjury. For example, if you lie about a clue you saw in a robbery.

Say you are under oath and are testifying - if you lie about where you were born, and it's not important to the case, you are not committing perjury.

Perjury is a crime and the court must prove that it is a false statement or intentional lie. It is a serious crime and one can receive a long prison sentence.

Hope this helps!


I still don't quite understand when telling a lie in court is actually perjury and when it's not. Can anyone help?

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