Defenses to Perjury (California Penal Code Sections 118 through 131)
For more than 30 years, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have successfully defended our clients charged with serious criminal activity such as committing or suborning perjury pursuant to Penal Code Section 118 through 131
In this section, we identify and explain some of the defenses we may be able to raise on your behalf that we have successfully employed in the past to help our clients overcome a conviction for committing or suborning perjury.
1. You Did Not Knowingly Make a False Statement
Crucial in one of the defenses to perjury is the issue of whether or not you knew you had made a false statement while under oath. If you did not know that what you were saying or agreeing to in writing was false, you had no intent to lie and therefore cannot be convicted of perjury.
In this case, a “mistake of fact” is a perfectly legal defense to perjury. Mistake of fact means a defendant may honestly believe in a set of facts that would prevent him or her from forming the requisite intent, or mens rea in legal jargon, required to constitute the crime.
Based on this same principal, if you misunderstood a question or a court instruction that caused you to make the apparently false statement, mistake of fact would serve as an effective defense.
2. You Did Not Willingly Make a False Statement.
If you can show that you gave a false statement under oath because you were threatened with serious injury or death, then coercion is a valid defense in a perjury prosecution. To prove coercion, you must be able to establish that you would have suffered immediate harm or future retaliation if you did not cooperate with a demand to perjure yourself.
3. Your Statement Was Not False
While it may seem obvious, making a true statement while under oath is not an act of perjury. However, this defense is important mainly because there may be a situation where one of our clients has made a truthful, but otherwise potentially misleading statement and is charged with perjury.
In this case, we would argue that perjury cannot be sustained because you literally told the truth even though you may have left something out, even a potentially material fact.
For example, let’s say you are asked under oath if you’ve ever convicted of a crime in California. You answer “no” to this question, although you have actually been convicted of a crime in another state. You’ve technically told the truth and you have not perjured yourself.
While it is never advisable to intentionally give misleading, but otherwise true information while under oath, the fact is a statement must be absolutely false in order to constitute an element of perjury.
4. You Were Not Under Oath
While lying may not be ethical or moral, it is not in itself a crime unless certain conditions apply. Essential to a perjury charge is whether or not you were actually under oath at the time of your statement.
If you tell a lie or make an otherwise false statement but you are not under oath or have not otherwise declared “under penalty of perjury” that you have truthfully attested to a fact that is material is or related to a material fact, you have not committed perjury.
If you are charged with perjury and we can establish that you were never technically under oath at the time of your allegedly false statement, you may have a defense to perjury.
5. Statement Not Material
Perjury can only be sustained when a false statement is or can be attributed to a material fact. A material fact is an occurrence, event, or information that is sufficiently significant to influence an individual into acting in a certain way, such as entering into a contract.
In formal court procedures, a material fact is anything needed to prove one party’s case, or tending to establish a point that is crucial to a person’s position.
The false statement must be capable of influencing the proceeding – that is, it must have a relationship to the subject of the proceeding. This includes a false statement that would tend to mislead or hamper an investigation. This means that a lie, even under oath, about a subject that is not material to the proceeding is not perjury.
For example, lying about your age is not necessarily perjury if it has nothing to do with the proceedings at hand.
If you can demonstrate that your false statement was not material or materially related to the proceedings nor tended to influence the proceedings, you may have a solid defense to a perjury charge.
6. You Recanted.
To recant means to retract or “take back” a previously stated opinion or belief that you no longer hold.
You may be able to use recantation as one of the legal defenses to perjury if you acknowledge that the statement you gave was actually false during the same legal proceeding or continuous legal matter. The false statement cannot have already affected the legal proceeding in a substantial way and you must admit to the false statement before any other party identifies the perjury.
Contact Wallin & Klarich Today if You Have Been Accused of Perjury
Contact Wallin & Klarich today if you or someone you know has been accused of committing or suborning perjury. Making contact with an experienced criminal defense attorney at the early stages of a criminal investigation or proceeding greatly improves your chances for a positive resolution in your case. The sooner we speak to you, the better we can strategize one of the defenses to perjury that is most likely to win your case.
Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experience successfully defending our clients throughout Southern California. With offices located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, our attorneys can help you avoid the serious consequences due to a criminal charge of perjury.
We may be able to get the charges against you reduced or dismissed altogether. We are dedicated to help you avoid serving time in either jail or prison. We will fight to help you obtain the best result possible in your case.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.