The Basics of Perjury
White Collar Criminal Defense By Harvey Binnall PLLC - 2019/02/14 at 06:49pm
If you’ve been accused of or charged with perjury, then you could be facing significant criminal penalties. Perjury is a felony, and depending on the jurisdiction, you could be facing a sentence of up to five or ten years imprisonment.
What is Perjury?
Though definitions may vary slightly from jurisdiction-to-jurisdiction, more generally, the crime of perjury can be defined as making a false statement (under oath or through signed legal documentation) that has a material impact on the relevant legal proceedings. For example, a defendant may “perjure” themselves by giving a false alibi in court.
As perjury is believed to undermine the enforcement authority of the courts, and the legal apparatus (more generally), prosecutors tend to be tenacious in their pursuit of perjury violators.
Given the high-stakes nature of perjury litigation, it’s important that you secure comprehensive legal assistance as early as possible. A white collar criminal defense attorney will fully evaluate your case and put forth a persuasive defense on your behalf.
Common Defenses to Perjury
Lack of Intent
Defendants can avoid liability by establishing that they lacked the requisite mental state to commit perjury. Perjury requires a willfully-made false or misleading statement. This intent may be lacking if the defendant did not reasonably “know” that the statement they were making was false.
For example, suppose that your company is being investigated for accounting fraud. You make a statement under oath that you did not perform any accounting work on the accounts that are being investigated. Prosecutors discover, however, that you did, in fact, accounting work on some of those accounts, and they charge you with perjury.
You can avoid liability for perjury if you can show that you were not aware that you were working on those accounts — if a higher-up mislabeled accounts to ensure that no accountants below could “connect the dots,” so to speak.
False Statement is Immaterial
Perjury liability will not attach if you made a false statement that was “immaterial” to the proceeding at-issue. False statements are discouraged, of course, but immaterial false statements do not give rise to criminal liability.
For example, if you make a false statement about the car model that you drive (in order to appear wealthier), that is likely to be immaterial to a contract dispute. On the other hand, a false statement pertaining to your friendship with a board member of a company may be material in an insider trading case.
Contact an Experienced Alexandria White Collar Defense Attorney for Assistance
Harvey & Binnall, PLLC is a boutique white collar defense firm located in Alexandria, VA and serving clients throughout the NOVA region (in Virginia, Maryland, and the Washington D.C. metro area). We have decades of experience advocating on behalf of those who have been accused or charged with serious white collar crimes, including perjury and other crimes involving purported falsehoods.
In perjury cases, the character of the defendant will be called into question at every opportunity. This can be quite overwhelming for those who are not prepared for such aggressive and personal litigation. Thanks to our broad experiences in white collar defense litigation, we understand how difficult it can be to navigate a perjury dispute, and how necessary it is to challenge the prosecution (and witnesses) so as to ensure that you can put up a solid defense.