A person commits the offense of perjury if, with an intent to deceive and with knowledge of the statement’s meaning, the person makes a false statement under oath or swears to the truth of a false statement previously made under oath.
Perjury is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine not to exceed $4,000.00. This offense usually occurs when someone swears to the truthfulness of a statement before a notary. The offense occurs at the time you swear before a notary that the statement is true.
The most obvious defense to the charge of perjury is that the person was simply mistaken about the statement they swore to. To be guilty of perjury, the person must act with the intent to deceive. If a person thought their statement was true, even if it was not, then they did not give the statement with the intent to deceive the person or entity the statement was made to. Sometimes people think they are telling the truth but are simply mistaken. This is not perjury and is not a crime.
Another possible defense to the charge of perjury could be the affirmative defense of duress. If someone swears to a false statement, knowing the statement is false, but does so while under duress, it is not a crime. Duress is an affirmative defense under section 8.05 of the Texas Penal Code and is an absolute defense to criminal conduct. It states that if a person engages in criminal conduct because he or she was compelled to do so by threat of imminent death or serious bodily injury to himself or herself or another, they are not guilty of the crime they engaged in. This scenario can occur, for instance, when a victim gives an affidavit of non-prosecution to the District Attorney’s Office or Law Enforcement because they are being threatened by someone else with serious bodily injury or death if they don’t.
If you have any question about why you are being asked to give a written statement, or if giving the statement could expose you to criminal charges, you should consult an attorney before signing any statement that is required to be given under oath.
A person commits the offense of aggravated perjury, if he or she commits perjury, and the false statement is made during or in connection with an official proceeding and is material. Aggravated perjury is a third degree felony punishable by not less than two (2), nor more than ten (10), years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.00.
A statement is considered to be “material” if, regardless of the statement’s admissibility in the official proceeding, it could have affected the course or outcome of the official proceeding. It is not a defense to the charge of aggravated perjury that the declarant mistakenly thought, when he made the false statement, that it was immaterial. It is a defense to the charge of aggravated perjury that the statement was, in fact, not material. Materiality refers to misstatement’s that have some substantial potential for obstructing justice and does not include trivial falsifications.
Aggravated Perjury is most often seen in situations where someone is called as a witness, in a Court proceeding (hearing in court or trial) and lies under oath.
To convict someone of aggravated perjury, the prosecutor must prove that the individual: (1.) with intent to deceive and (2.) with knowledge of the statement’s meaning, (3.) made a false statement under oath, (4) that was required or authorized by law to be made under oath, (5.) in connection with an official proceeding, and that (6.) the false statement was material.
The defenses that should be strongly considered are (1.) that there was no intent to deceive, (2.) that the statement was not material (3.) whether the person who made the statement did so while under duress and (4.) that the statement was not material to the outcome of the official proceeding.
Another possible defense to the charge of aggravated perjury is that the person making the statement retracted the false statement before the completion of their testimony. Retraction has to occur before the falsity of the statement is exposed. In other words, the person making the false statement corrected it before the judge or the party asking the questions became aware the statement was not true and confronted the declarant about the statement being false.
People, who are subpoenaed to testify, may have a right not to testify. If you receive a subpoena to testify, you should call an attorney to represent you.
If you have been charged with perjury or aggravated perjury, you need to contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible who can aggressively represent you. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Matt Bingham understands Texas law as it pertains to aggravated perjury and will work to aggressively defend you and protect your rights. Call him today to schedule a legal consultation.