Lying Under Oath: What Exactly is Perjury?

accused during court hearingLying under oath, formally known as perjury, is a crime that involves an individual lying after promising or giving the oath to tell nothing but the truth to a court clerk, notary public, or other law officials. Typically, an act of perjury needs to be deliberate and in some states, a material fact to the case at hand.

In general, perjury might be in the form of something written, oral testimony in a court proceeding or an acknowledged or signed legal document containing fabricated information. Subornation of perjury, which is the act of assisting in and encouraging perjury, is likewise a crime.

Common Acts of Perjury

There are many different ways that a person could perjure himself or herself. Below are some common examples:

  • Bianca deliberately omits $16,000 of her income from her ITR, or income tax return, signs the return, and files it with the IRS.
  • After being sworn in, Edward testifies during the trial that his friend, Alyssa, was having dinner at his home when the crime with which Alyssa was charged with happened. But then evidence from the prosecution says otherwise.
  • When Rupert was writing his affidavit during a child support hearing, he deliberately understates his monthly earnings by $2,500, signs it and then files it.

In every one of these examples, proof of the criminal activity would be revealed when signed documents or testimonies is directly in conflict with information that could be verified, explains a renowned criminal defense attorney from Feldman & Lee PS in Kent.

For instance, Rupert, the father who provided the family court with an understated income would be caught when the court requests the payroll records of his employer. However, because witnesses and other relevant individuals in legal proceedings might inadvertently or unintentionally give false information without really meaning to, prosecutors should be able to demonstrate intent to mislead, misinform, or deceive.

Potential Penalties of Perjury

If the court finds you guilty of perjury, you could face significant prison time, hefty fines, and depending on the state, even the death penalty if your act of perjury resulted in the death of an innocent individual.

That said, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney if you’ve been charged with perjury to help build your defense and help increase your chances of getting acquitted.