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The entire justice system in America depends upon the honesty of those making statements when they've sworn an oath to tell the truth. This is true whether the person is sitting in court or signing a legal document.
Lying, making misleading statements, or signing a document you know to be false or misleading is considered perjury and it's a crime that's taken very seriously due to the incredible impact such falsehoods may have.
What is Perjury?
If you have sworn an oath to tell the truth during a legal proceeding and then make false or misleading statements, this may constitute perjury. However, there are numerous qualifiers to a perjury charge.
First, you must have first sworn an oath, to an authorized person in a legally authorized proceeding, to tell the truth. Next, you must make an actual statement (either verbally or in writing). Remaining silent or refusing to answer a question is not perjury.
False and misleading statements must also be material to the case, meaning they may influence the outcome. In other words, lies and misleading statements not relevant to the case are not likely to result in a charge of perjury.
You must also intend to give a false or misleading statement. Giving false testimony due to a mistake, lapse of memory, or even confusion is not perjury. Conflicting testimony may be considered perjury when one of the statements must be false (it happened at midnight; it happened at 8 AM).
Similarly, inconsistent statements may be considered perjury, such as claiming to not remember an event, but then testifying about particulars of that event. If you make false statements when giving an affidavit, or outside of official proceedings, you have not committed perjury unless or until you sign a written statement, under oath, that you know contains false or misleading claims.
Finally, you may be charged with perjury even if your false or misleading statement did not affect the outcome of the case. For example, if you are on trial for fraud, and lie about your involvement in the fraudulent activity, you may be charged with perjury even if the jury finds you guilty.
What are the Penalties for Perjury?
Perjury is illegal in all 50 states, as well as federally. Circumstances particular to each case determine penalties, but a conviction typically leads to fines and/or imprisonment.
On a federal level, you face up to 15 years in prison and $15,000 in fines. In addition, if you committed perjury in an attempt to benefit a defendant, federal sentencing guidelines demand an automatic increase in the defendant's sentence.
What are the Penalties for Perjury in Michigan?
Michigan statute varies penalties based on the type of charge. If the defendant is being tried for a capital offense, one with a maximum sentence of life in prison, the maximum sentence for perjury is life in prison. For non-capital offenses, the maximum sentence is 15 years.
Asking someone to commit perjury (called subornation of perjury) carries a maximum sentence of 15 years. If the person did not commit perjury, it is still a crime, with a maximum sentence of 5 years.
What are the Penalties for Perjury in California?
Perjury is a felony in California, with a maximum sentence of 4 years in county jail, though the defendant may receive as little as felony probation. In these cases, the judge has discretion in sentencing. Factors he or she considers include whether someone else was harmed (in other words, an innocent person was wrongly convicted) and if the accused has any prior criminal history.
If your actions lead to the conviction and execution of the accused, the crime is aggravated perjury. This carries a sentence of either death or life in prison without parole.
Any perjury conviction carries fines up to $10,000.
What are the Penalties for Perjury in South Carolina?
South Carolina varies penalties by a variety of factors, starting with whether you lied in court or on a legal document, known as perjury in court and perjury in a document respectively. In addition, judicial discretion allows the judge to determine sentencing. Judges consider a variety of factors, including the consequences of your actions (did someone go to jail) and whether you have a criminal history.
A perjury in court conviction carries a maximum sentence of 5 years, with the court determining fines. Perjury in a document carries a maximum sentence of 6 months and a minimum fine of $100.
Schedule a Free Consultation
If you face perjury charges, schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and determine your next steps.