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What are the penalties for lying under oath (perjury)?

What are the Penalties for Lying Under Oath (Perjury)?

What Constitutes Perjury?

Perjury generally refers to making a false statement under oath or affirmation, where the person knows the statement is false or believes it to be untrue. This includes oral statements made during testimony in court, written statements made in affidavits, depositions, or other sworn documents, and misleading or incomplete statements.

The key elements for a perjury charge are:

  • The statement was made under oath, meaning after swearing to tell the truth often on a bible or by affirmation. This includes court proceedings, depositions, affidavits, oral examinations under oath, and statements to government agencies.
  • The person knew the statement was false, or made it with reckless disregard for the truth.
  • The false statement was material, meaning it could influence or affect the proceeding. Even minor lies can be considered perjury if material to the matter at hand.

Perjury laws apply even if the person was not the defendant or witness in a case. Anyone who lies under oath can potentially be charged with perjury.

Perjury Penalties Under Federal Law

Under federal law, perjury is a felony punishable by:

  • Up to 5 years in prison
  • Fines of up to $250,000 for individuals, $500,000 for organizations
  • Probation

Federal perjury often involves lying to federal officials, congressional hearings, federal grand juries, courts, or federal agencies like the FBI or IRS.

High profile cases like Roger Stone and Michael Cohen show federal perjury charges can have severe consequences. However, judges have discretion in sentencing and can impose lighter penalties for first-time or minor offenses.

Perjury Penalties Under State Laws

  • Alaska – Perjury is a class B felony with up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
  • California – Perjury can be punished by up to 4 years in state prison.
  • Florida – Provides up to 5 years in prison for perjury.
  • New York – Perjury is a class D felony with up to 7 years in prison.
  • Texas – Perjury is a felony with 2-10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

As with federal perjury, state judges have broad discretion in sentencing. First time minor offenses often lead to probation, restitution, or community service rather than years behind bars. However, repeat or egregious perjury can result in years in prison.

Collateral Consequences of Perjury Convictions

  • Felony record – Perjury results in a permanent felony conviction on your criminal record. This can impact employment, housing, loans, and other opportunities.
  • Impeachment – Those convicted of perjury can have their credibility attacked in future court proceedings and testimony disregarded.
  • Loss of licenses – Perjury can lead to loss of professional licenses including law licenses for attorneys.
  • Deportation – Non-citizens can face removal from the country if convicted.

The repercussions of perjury can follow someone for life, underscoring the need for experienced legal counsel when facing charges.

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