Perjury – Overview (California Penal Code Sections 118 through 131)

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Perjury is the crime of lying under oath. If, while under oath, you attest as being true to any essential fact that you know is false, you commit perjury. California law pursuant to Penal Code Sections 118 through 131 outlines the various ways you can be found guilty of committing this serious crime.

You can commit perjury in or out of a courtroom, either orally or in writing. This applies whether you lie or you invite, persuade or coerce someone else to lie under oath – what is known as suborning perjury.

You could be charged with perjury if you lie under oath.
If you lie under oath, you could be charged with perjury.

It is also unlawful for a law enforcement officer to commit perjury. Furthermore, perjury which leads to an innocent person’s execution may be punished as a capital offense.

You can be punished for committing perjury by being sent to jail or being placed on probation. A perjury conviction will damage your credibility and may lead to other serious and potentially long-term consequences.

In this section, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich want to share with you how you can be prosecuted for committing or suborning perjury and some of the defenses we have successfully used to help previous clients to prevail in a perjury prosecution. We will also explain the consequences you should expect if you are convicted of lying under oath.

Finally, a few Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) are included for your convenience. But first, let’s look at some of the ways you can perjure yourself…

Examples of Perjury

Some of the ways you may trigger a prosecution for perjury are as follows:

    • Intentionally providing false information on any legal document that has a disclaimer to which you sign reading “I declare under penalty of perjury that the above information is true and correct” or words to that effect, including:
      • An affidavit;
      • A certificate; or
      • A declaration;

      There are many ways you can commit perjury.
      A perjury prosecution can be triggered in a variety of ways.
    • Knowingly giving a false statement while testifying in a criminal or civil court proceeding;
    • Willfully lying during a sworn deposition;
    • Lying on an official government form, for example:
      • A driver’s license application;
      • A claim for public benefits such as CalFresh (formerly food stamps); and
      • A Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) application;
  • Testifying as to your opinion if you don’t honestly believe in the opinion about which you are testifying; and
  • If you are a law enforcement officer, knowingly and intentionally making a materially false statement in a police report and then filing the report with your agency (Penal Code Section 118.1).

Additionally, if you make a false written statement on a loan application or an income tax return, for example, you could also be facing charges for fraud, forgery and/or theft.

Prosecution for Committing Perjury

In order to convict you of committing perjury, a prosecutor must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. These elements include:

1. You made a deliberate and willful statement, either:

a. Orally (spoken); or
b. In writing

2. You knew that the statement was false; 

3. You were under oath when you made the statement; and

4. The statement was a material fact or related to one.

Additionally, you can be found guilty of suborning perjury if a prosecutor can prove the following:

  • You attempted to persuade a witness to lie;
  • You believed that the testimony was false; and
  • The witness does, in fact, lie under oath.

Defenses to Committing Perjury Charges

defenses to a perjury charge
The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich know the defenses to a perjury charge.

Possible defenses to a charge of perjury under Penal Code Section 118 include:

  1. No intent: You did not knowingly make a false statement;
  2. Coercion: You did not willingly make a false statement;
  3. The statement was not false: You made a misleading, but technically truthful statement;
  4. You were not under oath: You were not legally under oath when you lied;
  5. Not material fact: The false statement was not related to a material fact; or
  6. Recantation: You corrected a false statement in a timely manner

Sentencing and Punishment for Committing Perjury

Committing or suborning perjury in California is a felony and is punishable by up to four years in jail.

A peace officer who commits perjury can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. A peace officer convicted of felony perjury can be sent to prison for up to three years. A misdemeanor conviction is subject to as much as one year in jail.

In rare cases, committing or suborning perjury is a capital offense when doing so causes an innocent person to be convicted and executed.

Wallin & Klarich Can Help You Fight a Perjury Charge

If you or someone you care about is facing perjury charges in California, you need to contact one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible. Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have a proven track record of successfully defending our clients for over 40 years.

An allegation of committing or suborning perjury is a serious charge carrying serious consequences, including imprisonment and heavy fines. Additionally, you risk losing your professional license, your right to bear a firearm and your right to stay in the country if you are not a U.S. citizen.

Wallin & Klarich has offices conveniently located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville. Our attorneys are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to make certain all of your rights are protected and that you receive unparalleled legal representation throughout every step of your case.

We may be able to get the perjury charges against you reduced or dismissed altogether. We will do all within our power in order to help you avoid serving time in either jail or prison. We will 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.

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