Perjury comes up most often in the context of official court proceedings in which witnesses allegedly make false statements after being sworn under oath or affirmation to tell the truth. However, there must be sufficient corroboration of the fact that a statement is false, as well as evidence of an intent to deceive. To fight back against perjury, you may need to enlist the services of a Philadelphia perjury lawyer.
Many individuals testify with no intentions of making a false statement. However, testifying is stressful and often can cause witnesses to make mistakes, remember events incorrectly, or get confused about their own statements. A dedicated criminal defense attorney may be able to help defend you against perjury charges in this type of situation.
Under 18 Pa. Con. Stat. § 4902, perjury occurs when individuals make a false statement under oath or affirmation in any official proceedings or swears or affirms the truth of a previously made statement. In order to qualify as perjury, the statement in question must be material in nature and the individuals must believe that the statement is not true. Materiality is defined in this section as any statement that has the potential to affect the ultimate outcome of a proceeding.
A perjury conviction may not rely on the uncorroborated testimony of only one witness. Therefore, the prosecution must present the testimony of at least two witnesses, or one witness and some other form of evidence to corroborate the witness testimony. There also must be evidence of an intent to deceive on the part of the individuals who made the false statement.
This section also specifies some situations that do not operate as a defense to perjury charges. For instance, it is not a defense that the individuals did not believe their false statements to be material. It also is irrelevant if the oath or affirmation was administered improperly in some way.
There are many different defenses that may be available to defend individuals against perjury charges, depending on the facts surrounding the situation. For example, if a statement involves the interpretation of a fact, then it should not qualify as perjury. Everyone interprets words or actions differently and if witnesses happened to misinterpret the situation, they had no intent to deceive or even make a false statement.
The intent of individuals accused of perjury also is relevant when the individuals have drawn an incorrect conclusion about an event, do not remember the event correctly, or simply cannot remember the events as they occurred at all. As time passes, memories fade and what individuals believed to be true in fact may not be true at all. In order to successfully raise defenses related to intent, individuals may wish to first consult with a knowledgeable attorney in Philadelphia.
Perjury is a felony of the third degree. The potential sentence for a third-degree felony conviction is a maximum sentence of incarceration of seven years and a maximum fine of $15,000. Since the outcome of a criminal prosecution for perjury can be extremely severe and costly, individuals should consider seeking the advice of a perjury attorney in Philadelphia.
There are collateral consequences to a perjury conviction, as well. Any type of felony conviction also can result in the loss of civil rights. These rights include the right to vote and the right to possess or carry a firearm, among others.
Mistakes, foggy memories, confusion, and lapses in judgment while giving statements under oath all can contribute to perjury charges. Just because you are facing charges, however, does not mean that you are guilty or that you will be convicted. Enlisting a Philadelphia perjury lawyer may be helpful in defending yourself against these charges.
The criminal justice system takes perjury charges very seriously, so the penalties for a conviction can be harsh. You may be able to avoid or minimize the possibility of these negative consequences with the help of legal representation.
David Clark Attorney at Law