Perjury Lawyers | Kalispell Office | Serving Whitefish, MT
1830 3rd Ave E, Suite 302, Kalispell, MT 59901
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Perjury is the willful act of swearing a false oath or falsifying an affirmation to tell the truth during an official proceeding. For example, when a witness fails to testify at a trial truthfully, they can be charged with perjury. The state you live in will determine the specific elements of perjury. Depending on the specifics of your case an attorney can help defend you against these charges.
Perjury can be a difficult offense to comprehend, as many common misconceptions exist surrounding the nature of the crime given its prevalence in popular culture. Generally, perjury refers to instances in which — while under authorized oath — a person offering testimony or being questioned knowingly and intentionally makes a materially false statement.
The definition of what constitutes a material falsehood versus an immaterial falsehood pertains to the case itself. For example, lying about a potential murder weapon (type, whereabouts, who was holding it) is likely to be material — or relevant — to the case. However, making a false statement about what one served to their pet cat that day is far less likely to be judged as a material element to a murder case in which an eyewitness is being called to testify.
On a superficial level, it may seem like the act of lying and the act of committing perjury are one and the same, but from a legal standpoint, there are several differences.
While lying might be a commonplace practice among humans, the telling of a falsehood is not considered to be perjury in all instances where the person being questioned is not placed under oath by an authorized public official. Lying to your spouse about where you were last night is simply relaying a falsehood, but lying to a court prosecutor about where you were last night is likely to be an example of perjury — whether you are a key witness or a suspect yourself.
People tell lies of all shapes and sizes. However, in order to qualify as perjury, a lie must be relevant — or material — to the case on trial. This is another point of differentiation from a standard lie, which often has no bearing on any greater point of relevance.
Finally, lies of omission are exempt from categorization as perjury. Perjury concerns itself with what is said, what is subscribed to and what is authorized by the person being questioned — not with what the witness did not say.
For perjury to be proven, several elements must be in play. First, the statement must be materially false, as discussed above. Second, the offender committing perjury must have knowingly, and intentionally, misled the court while under oath.
This can make proving an instance of perjury very difficult. While a material falsehood may be easy enough to prove via cross-examination and presentation of evidence, proving that a witness knowingly and intentionally misled the court can be a much more challenging bar to clear. Collecting evidence — say, in the form of text messages or emails — can be useful in proving the guilt of a potential perjurer.
Perjury is most frequently categorized as a felony at both the federal level as well as at the state level, but exceptions do exist.
For example, in the state of New York, perjury can be classified as a misdemeanor if the lie being made under oath is nonetheless judged immaterial or irrelevant to the case at hand. Otherwise, if the lie made under oath is judged material to the case at hand, you would likely face felony charges instead.
If found guilty of perjury in federal court, the USC allows for a sentence of up to five years imprisonment.
State laws vary greatly in terms of their sentencing guidelines and requirements, but in broad terms, punishments are determined by the severity of the charges being laid, and whether or not they are categorized as misdemeanors or as felonies. In Texas, for example, simple perjury is considered a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in county jail as well as a $4,000 fine. However, aggravated perjury is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 10 years in state prison and a $10,000 fine.
Whether or not perjury is considered aggravated is determined by whether the falsehood made under oath is material to the case — the same reasoning applies in the state of New York as well as many other jurisdictions.
If you have been charged with perjury, you are facing serious charges. A skilled perjury attorney is the first person you should contact about your case.
An attorney can often resolve your particular legal issue faster and better than trying to do it alone. A lawyer can help you navigate the legal system, while avoiding costly mistakes or procedural errors. You should seek out an attorney whose practice focuses on the area of law most relevant to your issue.
The goal of an initial consultation is to find an attorney you are comfortable working with and someone who can help you understand your options under the law. Seek to understand the relevant legal experience the attorney brings to your case. While it is not realistic to expect an attorney to resolve your legal issue during an initial consultation, you should gain a level of comfort with his/her ability to do so. A good consultation can clarify issues, raise pertinent questions and considerations for your case, and help you make an informed decision towards resolving your legal issue.
In general, how much an attorney costs will often depend on these four factors: billing method and pricing structure, type of legal work performed, law firm prestige, and attorney experience. Depending on the legal issue you are facing, an attorney may bill you by the hour, settle on a flat fee, or enter into a contingency fee agreement. The type of legal work you need help with will also play a role in cost incurred.
Affidavit – A sworn written statement made under oath. An affidavit is meant to be a supporting document to the court assisting in the verification of certain facts. An affidavit may or may not require notarization.