Perjury law is legislation that finds a witness guilty of the crime of lying under oath or other forms of testimony. The crime of perjury is considered a serious offense, and one that could result in hefty penalties for the accused. A perjury penalty may include, but is not limited to, probation, community service, having to pay restitution, and considerable jail time.
While it is primarily associated with the court setting, perjury law may also apply to other situations. In fact, making false statements in any form of written testimony could result in a perjury charge. Common examples include lying in a police statement, civil deposition, or other document a witness has signed to validate that the information he or she has provided is factual and accurate. Collaborating or even intimidating someone else to lie under such circumstances could also result in an individual being charged with perjury or a similar law known as subordination of perjury.
Although the violation of perjury law is something the legal system does not take lightly, actually proving this offense is not always easy. The prosecution is responsible for presenting a case that shows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that an individual has lied during the said form of testimony. This generally includes proving the individual clearly understood the question and knowingly provided misleading or inaccurate information, among other factors.
Perjury law usually calls for a felony conviction regardless of the sentencing. So even if jail time is not handed down as a penalty, the accused individual will likely have a blemish that remains on his or her criminal record forever. If the individual has been convicted of perjury in the past, there is a great chance that the courts will enforce the maximum sentence in order to indicate the seriousness of the offense.
According to rules enforced by the United States Supreme Court, a witness who provides misleading information, but tells the "literal" truth, is not in violation of perjury law. This has lead to a defense strategy termed as literal truth defense. Many attorneys encourage US defendants to adopt this strategy when being questioned to elude a perjury charge.
Perjury law is nothing to play around with. Anyone accused of this offense could be facing significant jail time, so consulting with an experienced perjury lawyer as soon as possible is highly advisable. Despite the seriousness of such a crime, defendants have the legal right to protect themselves and prove their innocence.