The crime of perjury is sometimes known as “lying under oath,” and it generally refers to giving false testimony during a legal proceeding. State law treats perjury with differing levels of severity depending on the circumstances involved.
Although it may seem like a small matter, this crime can be prosecuted as a felony with severe penalties. Therefore, if you have been charged, it is crucial to work with a skilled defense attorney who understands state laws on the subject and how they fit with the circumstances of your case. An experienced Ft. Lauderdale perjury lawyer could evaluate your individual situation and work toward the best possible resolution.
Chapter 837 of the Florida criminal code describes the various types of perjury situations. The factor that makes the most difference in the severity of the case is whether the false statement was made in an “official proceeding.” Under the definition section of the statute, an official proceeding is deemed to be one that occurs in the presence of a government official who is authorized to “take evidence under oath.” This includes proceedings that take place before:
- Court judges
- Legislative officers
- Special magistrates
- Administrative law judges
- Hearing officer or examiners
- Notaries or other taking testimony or a deposition in connection with an official proceeding
Definition of Perjury
When people take an oath, they are acknowledging that they are bound to testify truthfully. It is essentially a promise to tell the truth. When that promise is broken, the penalties can be severe. However, in order for false testimony to be considered perjury, it must meet a certain threshold:
- The statement must be made under oath
- The statement must concern a “material matter,” which means an issue which could affect the outcome of the case
- The individual making the statement must not believe it to be true
It is important to be aware that during official proceedings, if an individual makes two material statements that contradict one another, that is also considered perjury, even if it is not clear which of the two statements is false.
Moreover, if an individual gives false information to law enforcement officials in connection with the alleged commission of a crime, the giving of false information is punishable as a first-degree misdemeanor and warrants attention from a Ft Lauderdale perjury attorney, even if the statement was not made under oath.
Degrees of Severity
If false testimony meets these criteria, then the circumstances determine the penalties involved. When the perjury is a false statement made in an official proceeding, it is considered a third-degree felony punishable by imprisonment for up to five years and fine of up to $5,000.
If that same statement is made under oath but not during an official proceeding, the perjury is treated as a first-degree misdemeanor subject to a fine of $1000 and jail time of up to one year.
If, however, the perjury is made in connection with the prosecution for a capital felony, the crime becomes a second-degree felony with the potential for a fine that is doubled (up to $10,000) and a prison sentence that is tripled (up to $15,000). A lawyer in Ft. Lauderdale could help someone avoid or minimize the penalties associated with a perjury charge.
Recanting a Statement
One of the most common defense strategies that an attorney in Ft Lauderdale may use in a perjury case is recantation. This defense may only be used in situations where the accused individual admits that the statement they made was false during the same proceeding. Additionally, for this defense to be effective the false statement that the Defendant made must not have had an affect on the proceeding and must have been recanted prior to it becoming obvious that the statement was false. Because the defenses to this crime are nuanced and specific to certain circumstances, it is important to have a skilled attorney who understands the complexities of these cases.
How a Ft. Lauderdale Perjury Attorney Can Help
Because a perjury case can hinge on a few key elements, it is essential for anyone charged with perjury to seek counsel from an attorney familiar with the nuances of the laws and how they have been interpreted in past situations.
An experienced Ft. Lauderdale perjury lawyer can build the best possible defense based on the circumstances of your case. If you are facing a perjury charge, contact our office today.