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Al's Legal Corner - Did You Know?

Question: What is Perjury?

Answer: Perjury, in its simplest form, is lying under oath about a material fact, meaning a fact which could affect the entire outcome of a proceeding. It literally threatens the very foundation of our Court system, and thus, our Criminal Justice system as a whole. Imagine a world in which nobody told the truth to law enforcement during the investigation of a crime, nor to a jury in a Courtroom. We would have innocent people being convicted, and guilty people walking our streets. Such is why Perjury is such a serious threat to our society, and must not be tolerated regardless of whom the speaker is, whether it be an everyday citizen, a trusted law enforcement officer or even an officer of the Court, such as a lawyer or Court personnel.

In Florida there are multiple types of Perjury, each of which are outlined in Florida Statute 837. Perjury offenses range from a very serious 2nd Degree Felony, such as lying under oath during the prosecution of a Capital Criminal offense, down to the Misdemeanor level (i.e. lying under oath outside of an "official proceeding"). As a general rule, if you lie under oath in an "official proceeding," then you are facing a Felony charge. An "official proceeding" includes a proceeding heard, or one which may be or is required to be heard, before any Legislative, Judicial, Administrative or Governmental Agency or Official authorized to take evidence under oath. Examples of an "official proceeding" include oaths administered by Judges, Special Magistrates, a Notary, as well as testimony given in a deposition.

Lying outside of an "official proceeding" is also a crime, though it is generally a Misdemeanor. It includes lying to law enforcement during an investigation, as well as providing written statements to a public servant with the intent of misleading the public servant in his official duty. Though such examples are Misdemeanors, you can see how such remains a very serious threat to our society, jeopardizing our innocent citizens while harming the ability to prosecute the actual guilty parties.

Generally speaking, in order to prove the offense of Perjury, the State must prove the following:

  1. The Defendant took an oath or otherwise affirmed that he was obligated by conscience or by law to speak the truth in an official proceeding or not in an official proceeding;
  2. The oath or affirmation was made to a person who was in their official capacity;
  3. While the Defendant was under oath, he made a statement about a material matter;
  4. That statement was false; and
  5. The Defendant did not believe the statement was true at the time it was made.

Recantation is a Defense to any prosecution for Perjury or False Statement only if the person making the false statement admits such statement is false during the same continuous proceeding or matter, and the false statement has not substantially affected the proceeding; or such admission is made before it has become obvious that the false statement has been exposed or will be exposed. You can also argue the statement was not a material fact, and therefore did not affect the outcome of the proceeding, or that the person speaking honestly believed the statement was truthful.

If you, or someone you know, is facing Perjury charges, call my office immediately!