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Perjury Laws, Charges & Statute of Limitations

June 25, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

There are many different types of crimes that an individual can be accused of. One of these types is an action that interferes with the basic operations of the criminal justice process. Perjury is one of the most well-known of these types of crimes. Every few months has another news story about a famous individual being accused of lying to an investigator or a grand jury under oath. Individuals must take testifying seriously in order to avoid the many negative side effects of perjury.

What is perjury?

Perjury is the act of uttering a false statement under oath. Such a statement could be severe or relatively benign. It could be entirely unrelated to the case at hand. But perjury is a necessary charge and a serious one for nearly all offenses because of the importance of testifying under oat. An individual can secure a death sentence through their testimony under oath. It can be the key to a number of different criminal cases. As a result, the government imposes perjury convictions in order to protect the sanctity of that testimony.

Perjury laws and charges

Each major level of government has different perjury laws depending on the jurisdiction and scenario. The government sometimes combines multiple instances of perjury or just lists every lie as a perjury charge. If the instances of perjury are severe and clearly deliberate, the government can add on obstruction of justice charges. Obstruction of justice is when an individual deliberately sabotages and impedes an investigation. This process is often considered to begin with an act of perjury. Simple perjury charges are treated in a case separate from the original case in most instances.

A person who is facing a perjury charge will often have the circumstances of that charge well-documented. The statements will have been transcribed and there are often contradictory comments that are also either noted or recorded. In such a case, a prosecutor needs to make sure to prove that a person deliberately lied about a particular situation. Perjury has to be a charge that results from a deliberate lie. In some instances, a prosecutor has to find external evidence to show the reasons that a person lied and show that the lying was for a deliberate purpose.

Penalties for a perjury charge depend on the seriousness of the situation and the circumstances of the lie. A person lying about a murder charge faces many more sanctions than a person telling a lie about a simple assault. Individuals who commit perjury can easily face jail time. Perjury on the federal level can result in a person going to prison and serving the vast majority of their sentences. Anyone who is charged with perjury and convicted has to forfeit certain rights. For instance in many areas a person is unable to apply to work as a notary if they have a perjury conviction on their record. That conviction threatens the ability for institutions and governments to trust that person in any future endeavor.

Statute of Limitations

The charge of perjury is a serious one in a large number of jurisdictions. Therefore, it is seen as a case that requires an extended statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for a perjury charge varies by district. But it is an extended period in every state. Some states have a statute of limitations for this crime of one to five years. There are some instances where a person is charged only weeks or days before the statute expires. This process guarantees that the individual will at least face the charges in a court of law.


Anybody who is facing perjury charges needs to take them as seriously as they would any other felony. Perjury is one of the most debilitating non-violent crimes that a person can be charged with. A person may lose their right to engage in a number of different businesses. They could face years of harm to their job prospects and their ability to secure an apartment. People facing these charges should hire a lawyer and fight the perjury case as vigorously as possible. When they are called to testify, they should also contact a lawyer. Taking testimony seriously can be essential to avoiding these possible issues.



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