Before the 1950s, probably one of the most serious perjury cases in history took place surrounding a man by the name of Alger Hiss. He was convicted of having perjured himself when it came to testimony about his alleged involvement in a Soviet spy ring before and during World War II. This began in 1948 when an ex-communist and editor with Time magazine declared that Hiss was a communist and had passed top secret reports to him during his work in the Department of State during the 1930s. After lies came forth and the charges were proven, Hiss was brought to trial and charged with two counts of perjury and served four years in jail for his crimes.
What is Perjury?
From a legal standpoint, perjury is lying under oath and uprooting what the justice system is all about. From a historical point of view, the actual crime used to refer to lying while testifying in court; however, now it refers to many different legal proceedings like grand juries, family law court, bail hearings, Congressional committee hearings, and depositions in civil lawsuits. For perjury to be counted against someone, the statement that is a lie must be very important to the case. Here are some guidelines that must be met to have a case:
- It requires a statement, which means that refusal to give a statement is not perjury.
- There must be intent to mislead the court in false testimony.
- Only false statements are perjury, which means that false testimony that results from confusion, lapse in memory, or mistake does not count.
- Inconsistent statements can lead to perjury because a witness’ testimony is viewed as a whole. Inconsistency is actually what led to Bill Clinton’s impeachment.
- False statements made outside of official proceedings are not perjury, such as what is said to a lawyer. Statements made in court are where it applies.
- Only a material statement can be perjury. This means that the statement must be capable of influencing the proceeding in some way.
- Even when false testimony is not affecting the outcome of a case somehow, the lying witness may still be prosecuted. An example would be an ex-cop on trial for involvement in a gambling operation and he falsely denies any involvement on the stand.
Penalties For Perjury
When you commit this serious crime, you could face penalties such as fines or prison time when convicted. Federal law states that anyone who has been found guilty could be fined or imprisoned for up to five years. However, fines and prison time may not be all you have to worry about depending on where you work. If you work in the legal profession or law enforcement, you may lose your professional license for these actions.
True Statements: True statements are not perjury. This means that somebody could cleverly use statements that are intentionally meant to mislead, and it would not be classified as perjury if the statements are “technically” true. The prosecutor will have to ask questions to get to the bottom of the possible participation regarding the perjury. Recanted or Corrected Statements: Witnesses may sometimes say one thing but recant it later. In some states, this is counted as a defense to perjury and in other states it does not count. “Perjury” Trap: Prosecutors have sometimes, in the past, been known to call a defendant solely because the prosecutor knows that this person will lie under oath and help make the case. This is a hard defense to use, but it has been done before. If you have been accused of perjury, the first thing you should do is speak to a professional attorney who has experience in this type of law. The laws regarding perjury can be quite complex. Speak to us today by contacting us at The Law Office of Peter Blair. We will work with you to answer your questions and help you every step of the way.