When under oath, one is supposed to exercise the virtue of honesty and integrity; that is why a person is solemnly sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This practice has been used to ensure that everything said in court will be credible and legitimate because this will determine the proceedings' results. Staying truthful is essential because all the matters discussed and tackled during the session will affect all the parties involved. By the power of the sworn statement, one cannot and should not lie: it is either to remain truthful or commit perjury.
According to California Penal Code 118 “Every person who, having taken an oath that he or she will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly before any competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any of the cases in which the oath may by law of the State of California be administered, willfully and contrary to the oath, states as true any material matter which he or she knows to be false, and every person who testifies, declares, deposes, or certifies under penalty of perjury in any of the cases in which the testimony, declarations, depositions, or certification is permitted by law of the State of California under penalty of perjury and willfully states as true any material matter which he or she knows to be false, is guilty of perjury.”
This statute refers to all forms of certification, declaration, deposition, statement, or testimony related to the case given under oath within the state of California.
Grounds for Perjury
Perjury is only committed when the statement follows the specific grounds for it to be considered as an offense;
- The falsification was done under oath - when the lying was done after he/she swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
- There was no statement given - Refusal to say the information or intentionally omitting details asked in front of a grand jury without clear reasons can be counted as perjury by omission.
- Intent - The person is giving the statement intended to mislead the court by giving false statements and testimony.
- Inconsistency - Inconsistent statements can lead to perjury charges. The proper authority can see the statements as a whole and question the logical inconsistencies that gravely affect the case's entirety.
Punishments for Perjury
A violator of PC 118 can be charged with a felony. A felony, as opposed to a misdemeanor or infraction, is a severe criminal violation that includes the most heinous and terrible criminal acts. The punishment includes:
- Incarceration in state prison for up to four (4) years, and/or
- A fine of up to the thousand dollars ($10,000).
The defendant, however, can get expunged when he/she is awarded probation. Under California Penal Code 1203.4, expungement is a motion or petition filed by a defendant in a criminal trial. This petition acts as a plea to the court to release the person from a criminal conviction's adverse effects.
Violating PC 118 is a felony and, therefore, should be taken seriously. A violator can be charged with a lengthy period of incarceration. To avoid facing these problems, the defendant can hire a legal representative to stand for him/her in court. An excellent criminal defense attorney aims to lower, if not dismiss, all the charges thrown at the accused. Through years of criminal law experience, the lawyer might include the following conditions to secure a case.
- Unintentional lie,
- The statement was not a material matter, and
- It was not under oath.
Unintentional Falsification- The defendant did not willingly lie under oath. This can be caused by the defendant's conditions and/or someone coerced him/her to release a false statement.
Material Matter - The accused is only guilty of perjury if the statement he/she made is directly affecting the facts of the case. If he/she lied/omitted information about his/her personal details or anything unrelated to the case, it would not be counted as perjury.
Not under oath - The central premise of perjury is that the accused lied after swearing to tell the truth. However, if there were no oath, to begin with, any false statement would not be counted as perjury.
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