Perjury: What Happens If I Lie in Court?
Perjury is a serious offense, and it can have consequences that last long after you have left the witness stand. When you lie in court, you are preventing the truth about a case from being discovered, and this can cause the person in question to be wrongfully convicted or found innocent. Perjury undermines the carefully structured justice system, and you may face prison or fines if you are found to have lied under oath.
What Is Perjury?
In the past, perjury was defined as lying on the stand in a court of law. However, the definition has since been broadened to include any judicial proceedings, lawsuits and sworn statements. If you intentionally lie or withhold information in order to alter the outcome of a case, you are committing perjury. Perjury also includes the act of causing someone else to commit perjury.
What Qualifies as Perjury?
In order for it to be labeled as perjury, it must meet certain criteria.
- It must be a sworn statement, whether you are giving a written or a verbal statement.
- The statement must be made under oath.
- You must make the statement with the intent of misleading the court. If your statements are inconsistent because you are lying under oath, the prosecution can accuse you of perjury without identifying which statement is false.
What Does Not Qualify as Perjury?
Not every false statement in court is perjury. For example, if you state something that you mistakenly believe is correct, that is not perjury. It is also not perjury if you are confused about the incident in question or if you do not remember exact details.
How Is Perjury Defended?
If you have been accused of lying in a court of law, you will need to have a lawyer who will represent you. Your lawyer may be able to help you defend yourself against the accusation by arguing that your statement was true, even if it was made with the intention of misleading the jury. The lawyer may also encourage you to correct or recant your statement. In federal court, your recantation may still result in prosecution.
Punishments for Lying in Court?
Perjury laws vary from state to state, but it is considered a felony. This means that you may be required to spend up to a year in prison, and you may have to pay fines or go on probation. If you are found guilty of perjury in a criminal case, you may also be charged as an accessory to a crime.
While it may seem like a simple concept, perjury is actually very complex. A lawyer can help you determine the severity of your case and prepare your defense so that your trial will be more likely to have a favorable outcome.