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Perjury: What Happens When Someone Lies to the Court

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Perjury: What Happens When Someone Lies to the Court

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When someone is asked to give statements in a court of law, during a trial or during a legal matter, they are usually asked to do so under oath. This means that they swear to tell only truthful statements while they are being questioned or asked to give testimony. Deliberately submitting false information or concealing truthful information while under oath is a criminal offense known as perjury. Being convicted of a perjury offense can lead to criminal prosecution and severe penalties.

Although perjury refers to false statements, simply telling a lie may not be enough to bring charges of perjury against someone. There are specific requirements that must be met in order to determine if a statement is perjury.

The Definition of Perjury

Under the law, perjury is an untrue statement that is given while under oath when the person making the statement knows it to be untrue. In order to be classified as perjury, a statement must:

  • Be given under oath or in a legal context when parties have been sworn to honesty
  • Be intentionally given in a way that is intended to deceive or mislead
  • Be actually submitted (refusal to make a statement is not perjury, but may lead to charges of contempt)
  • Have something significant to do with the case or matter at hand

In short, perjury involves false statements that are submitted while under oath with the intention of appearing to be the truth. In other words, perjury is a lie that is used in court to deceive, trick or confuse the jury, prosecution or judge. Also, the statement must usually be relevant to the case in order to be considered perjury. For example, a witness who lies about their abilities to play basketball may not be charged with perjury if their statements have no impact on the case.

Penalties for Perjury

According to Section 18 of the United States Code, a person who is convicted of the federal offense of perjury may be punished with:

  • Up to five years in federal prison
  • A fine according to the severity of the offense

There are similar state laws regarding perjury in addition to federal laws. Although the penalties for this offense can be very severe, including incarceration, some judges may choose to issue sentences of probation and fines rather than jail time. However, serious incidences of perjury could lead to years behind bars.

Additionally, a person who is involved in certain professions could lose their license if they are convicted of perjury. For example, a police officer who is convicted of perjury may lose their ability to work in a law enforcement capacity.

Legal Defenses

With the help of a defense attorney, it may be possible to fight charges of perjury in court. For example, an attorney could submit evidence showing that a defendant did not willingly submit false testimony under oath. In order to do this, the attorney would have to show that the defendant did not knowingly or intentionally mislead the court with certain statements.

In other words, the attorney could argue that the defendant fully believed that his or her statements were truthful when they were submitted.

Also, an incorrect statement submitted by a defendant or a witness could simply be a mistake of fact. If a lawyer can prove that the defendant was simply confused or misled about the truth, perjury charges might not apply.

In any case, a person who has been charged with perjury may benefit from hiring an attorney. A defense attorney may be able to advise a defendant about the best course of action to take after charges have been filed.

Have you been accused of perjury? Contact The Law Office of Greg Tsioros to get the aggressive legal defense needed to protect yourself. Call today at (832) 752-5972.

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