Perjury is a crime that most people have heard about, even if it is on a movie or a television show. In the criminal justice system, judges and juries presume that someone’s sworn testimony or signed document is truthful. At the very least, they presume it has been presented in good faith. While it’s impossible to know without a doubt that someone is telling the truth while on the stand, those who purposefully mislead a court can face a criminal charge of perjury.
A Crime Against Justice
Perjury is considered a “crime against justice.” When someone lies while under oath, it compromises the authority of the court, jury, public officials, governing bodies and more. Similar crimes include tampering with evidence and criminal contempt of court.
When someone commits perjury, he or she knowingly makes misleading or false statements while under oath or signs a legal document knowing it is misleading or false. This is considered a serious crime because the legal system’s foundation depends on credibility and trust.
Examples of Perjury
Perjury can happen in a number of different ways. Here are a couple of examples:
- A woman testified that her boyfriend was having dinner with her when the crime her boyfriend is accused of occurred. Investigators found video showing the woman dined alone.
- A man intentionally omits the $10,000 on his tax return that he received for working for a friend “under the table.”
In these two examples, law enforcement can verify the two individuals knowingly lied or mislead the court or the Internal Revenue Service. There are, however, witnesses who give false testimony in good faith. In other words, they are not aware that what they are saying or signing under oath is false. In order for someone to be charged with perjury, the prosecutor has to prove that the intent to mislead or deceive was present.
The Penalty for Perjury
The penalty for perjury can include a fine or prison term. It can be charged as a federal or state crime. Under federal law, a conviction for perjury can lead to a fine or up to five years in prison. Most states have similar penalties.
Facing Perjury Charges?
Perjury is not often charged and it’s notoriously difficult to prove in many cases.
If you are facing charges of perjury or if the prosecution has threatened to charge you with perjury, a consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney is recommended.
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