Perjury


SHORSTEIN, LASNETSKI, & GIHON
helps people defend against
Perjury
allegations.

Perjury is basically lying under oath.  It is an often threatened charge, but rarely enforced.  The reason is that it can be very difficult to prove whether the witness lied or was simply mistaken or was telling the truth. Even if there are two contradicting statements, there are usually logical and reasonable explanations.  Give the experienced Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers of SLG Law a call to discuss your particular case.

What is Perjury?

Perjury is defined in Florida Statute Sections 837.012, 837.02, and 837.021.  There are 3 different kinds of Perjury. 
  • Perjury in an Official Proceeding (Fla. Stat. Sec. 837.012)
  • Perjury in a Non Official Proceeding (Fla. Stat. Sec. 837.02)
  • Perjury by Contradictory Statements (Fla. Stat. Sec. 837.021)

  • To prove Perjury in an Official Proceeding , the State must prove:
  • You took an oath or otherwise affirmed that you were obligated by conscience or by law to speak the truth in the official proceeding, and
  • the oath or affirmation was made to a person administering an oath, who was acting in an official capacity, and
  • you, while under an oath, made a statement, and
  • the statement was false, and
  • you did not believe the statement was true when you made it.

  • To prove Perjury in an Official Proceeding , the State must prove:
  • You took an oath or otherwise affirmed that you were obligated by conscience or by law to speak the truth in the unofficial proceeding, and
  • the oath or affirmation was made to a person administering an oath, who was acting in an official capacity, and
  • you, while under an oath, made a statement, and
  • the statement was false, and
  • you did not believe the statement was true when you made it.

  • To prove Perjury by Contradictory Statements , the State must prove:
  • You took an oath or otherwise affirmed that you were obligated by conscience or by law to speak the truth in the official proceeding, and
  • in the official proceeding in which one of the statements was made, you made the statement, and
  • in the official proceeding where the other statement was made, you made the statement, and
  • you made both statements while under oath or affirmation, and
  • the statements were contradictory, which means that both statements could not be true, and
  • you made both statements knowingly and intentionally.


What is an "official proceeding?"

An "official proceeding" means a proceeding heard, or which may be or is required to be heard before any legislative, judicial, administrative, or other governmental agency or official authorized to take evidence under oath, including any referee, general or special magistrate, administrative law judge, hearing officer, hearing examiner, commissioner, notary, or other person taking testimony or a deposition in connection with nay such proceeding.

The most common official proceedings we see where perjury charges or allegations arise are in depositions, court hearings, trials, and grand jury testimony.

What is an "oath?" Do I have to swear on the Bible for it to count?

No.  There are no magic words required for the oath. Here is the legal definition:

An "oath" includes affirmation or any other form of attestation required or authorized by law by which a person acknowledges that he or she is bound in conscience or law to testify truthfully in an official preceding or other official matter. 

What does "material matter" mean?

For lying under oath to be the crime of perjury, the lie must be about a "material matter".  The judge decides whether the alleged lie is about a material matter.

"Material matter" means any subject, regardless of its admissibility under the rules of evidence, which could affect the course or outcome of the proceeding.  Whether a matter is material in a given factual situation is a question of law.

What if the statement I'm charged with lying about didn't have anything to do with the proceeding I was testifying in?  For example, if I lied about using drugs , when it had nothing to do with the case?

The judge determines whether the matter you are alleged to have lied about is material or not.  The State doesn't have to prove that you knew the matter was material.  So, it is not a defense to say that you didn't know the statement you made was material.  In other words, you wouldn't be able to use the defense, "Hey, I didn't know my drug use mattered."  Of course, your attorney would argue the different issue that your drug use at that time was not material and therefore you could not be convicted of perjury. 

If I gave two contradictory statements under oath, does the State have to prove which one isn't true?

No.  The State must only prove that the two statements are contradictory.  For example, if you testified in a deposition that your husband or wife hit you, but then at trial, you testify that that person did not hit you, the State does not have to prove whether you were hit or not.  They simply have to prove that the two statements are contradictory.  They also must prove that you made both statements knowingly and intentionally.

What are the potential sentences for Perjury?


Perjury in an Unofficial Proceeding
Up to 1 year in jail

Perjury in an Official Proceeding
Up to 5 years in prison

Perjury in Official Proceeding Relating to Capital Felony
Up to 15 years in prison

Perjury by Contradictory Statements
Up to 5 years in prison

Perjury by Contradictory Statements Relating to Capital Felony
Up to 15 years in prison


What are the possible defenses to Perjury?

The most common defenses to perjury are that the statement made was not material and that the statement was not a lie.  Many times, our statements are qualified (i.e. I think, if I remember correctly, from what I saw, etc.).  Even when our statements are not qualified, we may remember things incorrectly and then later may be reminded that we are wrong.  For example, you may swear that your anniversary is on a certain day, only to come to find out that you missed it by a week.  If you were asked when you were married before you missed it, and after you missed it and were confronted by an angry spouse, you would have two different answers to that question.  Each time, you would have given what you believed was an honest answer at the time.  Give us a call to discuss this and other possible defenses to your perjury case. 

If you or a loved one has been arrested for or accused of
Perjury,

Call Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon Now!
Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorneys

904-642-3332 (Jacksonville)

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