It can be stressful to testify in court or during a criminal investigation. Under this pressure, you may say something that isn’t the whole truth, because you don’t want to get in trouble or you want to protect someone else. If you give false information or testimony while under oath, though, you may face criminal perjury charges.

Even if you did not commit any other crime and were only in court as a witness, lying to the court can lead to criminal charges. There may be ways to fix any misstatement you made to the court. If you are accused of perjury, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer for advice.

What Is Perjury and False Testimony?

Perjury involves making false statements under oath in a legal or judicial proceeding. This includes statements made under oath during a trial, in a deposition, or when taking an oath. Perjury is more serious than simple lying because the state considers lying to the court a greater crime.

It may also be a crime to persuade someone else to commit perjury under oath. Allowing someone else to lie under oath is known as “subornation of perjury.”

Perjury in a Written Legal Document

Making a false statement in a written document can also be considered a type of perjury. If the written document is used in a judicial proceeding or signed “under penalty of perjury,” any misstatements in the document can be used as evidence of perjury.

Federal Perjury Charges

Perjury is also a federal offense. When the lie or misrepresentation occurred in a federal investigation, court case, or tribunal, you may face felony federal criminal charges. A conviction could mean up to five years in federal prison.

Proving Perjury in Court

For the prosecutor or district attorney to get a conviction, they must prove every element of the charge. The elements of a perjury statute depend on the state. For example, the state may have to prove:

  • You took an oath to testify truthfully before a tribunal or officer
  • You knew the information was false when you testified
  • The information was material

When your lawyer builds a strong defense for your case, they may target one or more of the individual elements. If the state cannot prove every element beyond a reasonable doubt, then you should be found not guilty of perjury.

Penalties for a Perjury Conviction

Perjury is generally a felony offense. A felony is punishable by more than a year in jail and a fine. The penalties for a perjury conviction may depend on several factors, including:

  • Type of court proceeding
  • Underlying criminal charges
  • Whether perjury was part of a criminal conspiracy
  • Whether you already have a criminal record

There are long-term consequences of a felony conviction, even after you are released from prison. Convicted felons may have a difficult time getting a job, housing, or government benefits. A felony conviction can also mean losing your right to vote or own a gun.

Criminal Defense Attorney Strategies for Perjury Charges

If the prosecutor claims you lied under oath, the threat of a perjury charge may just be an attempt to scare you. There may have been several reasons why you gave the answer you did, without intentionally lying to the court. Your statement could have multiple interpretations, and the prosecutor could have taken it to mean something contradictory.

Making a mistake about some material information is not perjury because you never intended to give a false statement. You may have misunderstood the question or had bad information at the time of the testimony.

In general, perjury involves material misinformation. Telling a falsehood about some immaterial matter may not be considered perjury. For example, lying about your height in court may not be perjury unless your height or physical identification was a material matter.

Remember Your Right to Remain Silent

One of the most important constitutional rights you have is the right to remain silent. The Fifth Amendment guarantees your right not to incriminate yourself, and the Supreme Court extended that right to any civil, criminal, administrative, judicial, investigative, or adjudicatory proceeding.

If you are concerned that you would have to lie in a court proceeding or else you could face criminal charges, talk to your lawyer about your right to remain silent. Just because you don’t answer a question does not mean you did anything wrong. Staying silent can also help you avoid perjury charges. If you have questions about perjury, talk to your criminal defense lawyer for legal advice.

Speak to an Experienced Perjury Attorney Today

This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified perjury lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local perjury attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.

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