The Definition and Penalties of Perjury
Two weeks ago, this blog focused on the importance we place on oaths, even though they consist of nothing more than words. We just watched a new president declare the oath of office, but oaths matter as well down to the lowest levels of the court system. When we are placed under oath, we are saying that our words matter. To enforce this, we have laws against lying under oath. Lying under oath is called perjury.
Definition of Perjury:
It is not too simple to say that perjury is just lying under oath. The legal language found in the Code of Virginia describes it as “swearing falsely” when you are under oath. The law then goes on to give three examples of when perjury can apply, but they are extremely broad. Basically, perjury laws exist to ensure that sworn testimony is truthful.
Penalties of Perjury:
Perjury, according to the Code of Virginia, is a Class 5 felony. A Class 5 felony carries with it a potential prison sentence of somewhere between 1-10 years "or in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both." In other words, if you do not tell the truth under oath, you are risking your freedom. Imprisonment becomes a distinct possibility.
Examples of Perjury:
One of the most recent examples of perjury in the news involved Hillary Clinton. While she was never convicted of perjury, many questioned whether or not she could have been or should have been in relation to her Congressional testimony about her usage of a private e-mail server. In order to be found guilty, as reported by ABCNEWS and other news outlets, it had to be proven that she willingly made statements she knew to be false.
Some other famous figures have been convicted of perjury. In the sports world, Marion Jones won Olympic gold in 2000, only to find herself pleading guilty to perjury when she lied to authorities about steroid usage. During the O.J. Simpson trial, detective Mark Fuhrman struggled his way through allegations of racial slur usage. When he denied under oath that he had used them, he was later found guilty of perjury when audio recordings of his own words were found.
If you search for famous perjury cases, you will find the name Alger Hiss. He had lied during Congressional testimony about meeting with a member of the media and passing along classified documents. He was a State Department official who was found guilty of perjury 67 years ago this month.
No one is above perjury. It does not matter if you are testifying before Congress or in the Lynchburg General District Court. If you are facing perjury charges, you need a solid defense attorney to represent you. Call or e-mail today for a free consultation!
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