What is the Penalty for Perjury?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Perjury, the making of false statements under oath that directly pertain to a matter being investigated, is a crime with different criminal sentences depending on region. It’s impossible to state the penalty for perjury in all instances because of regional and jurisdictional variations. Additionally courts don’t always prosecute perjurers. This doesn’t mean they can’t or that committing perjury couldn’t result in fines or jail time.

An act of perjury could result in a fine or jail time, or could go unpunished.
An act of perjury could result in a fine or jail time, or could go unpunished.

The most common penalty for perjury is a fine and/or jail, but the amount of the fine or jail time can depend on judicial discretion in sentencing. It’s possible for there to be a minimum sentence length as a penalty, perhaps one year, and a maximum length of sentencing at five to 10 years per charge. If the person has committed more than one act of perjury, as by making numerous false statements under oath, he or she could be charged with multiple offenses and that could increase total fines charged or jail time. If the penalty is a mandatory one-year sentence, and the person perjured himself five times, he might face five years in prison.

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

Sometimes a judge has the discretion to decide against handing down a sentence as a penalty for perjury. There are people who have been convicted of the crime, and yet haven’t faced any type of jail time.

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.

There are some conditions that must be met before any penalty for perjury is considered, or where a person would even be tried for committing it. The false statement or statements made under oath must deal materially with the case. A woman who gets on the stand and insists she’s five years younger than her true age is committing perjury, but this may not be actionable unless her age is directly related to the case. It is still not recommended to lie under oath, but the trouble would begin for anyone who lies under oath in a way that affects the judicial proceedings. Any lies that might make the judge or jury see things in an untruthful way could result in a penalty for perjury, if a person is caught and convicted.

Another type of penalty might exist for suborning perjury, which occurs when a lawyer who knows that a client will give false testimony allows it to happen. They cannot allow this and must discourage clients who will lie from testifying in court. Lawyers can face criminal charges when their clients do this, and to avoid this charge, they frequently ask clients to disclose as little as possible about their actions in any crime. This way the lawyer does not know if a client’s testimony is truth or lie (perjury) and he cannot be accused of suborning perjury.

Telling a lie under oath is perjury, but only lies that affect the outcome of the case are actionable.
Telling a lie under oath is perjury, but only lies that affect the outcome of the case are actionable.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


On my passport, it said I didn't have one previously, but I was younger than 16 the last time I applied for one. After 16, you're required to get a new one regardless, but I'd still like to know if this counts.


This says how unstable judges are and how the system needs an overhaul. Please start overhauling.


I lied in a PFA and a emergency ex parte motion and a pro se motion, but the judge dismissed all of them I realized it was wrong. It didn't hurt the person I lied about and it didn't cause him to lose his son. It didn't send him to jail and there were no fines or anything, but he is taking me back to court for a motion to compel and award attorney fees. What does this mean? Will I go to jail or get a fine?


I observed in a Melbourne Magistrate's court four witnesses for the defense in a criminal hearing each take an oath/affirmation then proceed to disregard it willingly and destructively, by telling blatant lies in favor of of their friend, the defendant. No action was taken concerning this willful perjury. How can we get our justice system working well when perjury is not prosecuted?


I had a case where someone lied about something and then later confessed; this was a serious case.

That person did get away with murder, to coin a phrase. Our government is failing us. The criminals have more rights than anyone else.


What I hate is that the judges do not enforce any perjury charges, especially in domestic orders.

This affects people and their ability to get government work because others have lied and nothing was done about the lies by the judge.

Always they have an excuse or a "reason" not to enforce the law.

Explain that to my wife now our child is dead, judge. They get away with no penalty because you failed to punish them for their perjury.

We have to live with your actions (accepting their lies) for the rest of our lives.

When are Victorian judges going to actually uphold the law and punish all who blatantly lie?


What if the whole thing is a lie and they are trying to blame you?


I am not proud to say that i have made a false and a incorrect statement and have made serious allegations to the police about my husband, which he didn't do.

I am very confused about why I have made everything untrue up in my statements.

It was just an argument about something childish.

And while my husband was in police custody at a different city from our home town, I was admitted to the mental health unit at the hospital, and found out that I have been diagnosed with Acute Adjustment Disorder. I was given medicine to take for depression from my doctor because of my behavior.

I have told my lawyer about me lying in my statements about my husband, and they have told me to keep it a secret, but I had to push my stupid lawyer to file a document about the serious allegations I made up in my statements against my husband. Because I now have realized that I have been in postnatal depression. This is when women go through depression after giving birth to a baby.

And at this stage I have told the truth to everyone who is involved with this case, and I am just wishing that my husband and I can reunite once again with our two young children have together. And I am just waiting for the next hearing.

My husband has told his lawyer that he does not want any actions to taken upon me as he knows that we have never argued or fought about anything. He has also stated that my husband knows why I have done this to him.

My question is have I committed perjury? And my husband says he does not want any actions to be taken on me. So what will happen next for me?


What if the prosecuting attorney has their witness on the stand and the witness is an office of the law and choose not to tell the whole incident and intentionally leaves out some of the facts?


What if a public defender tells you to say you don't know or that you can't remember? Isn't that the same as telling you to lie?

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