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Legal Dictionary

perjury

Legal Definition of perjury

Noun

  1. An intentional lie given while under oath or in a sworn affidavit.

Synonyms

Related terms


Definition of perjury

Etymology

    Ultimately from Latin perjurare (“swear falsely”), from Latin per- +‎ jurare.

Pronunciation

  • IPA: /ˈpɝd'əɹi/, SAMPA: /"p3`dZ@ri/

Noun

perjury (plural perjuries)

  1. (law) The deliberate giving of false or misleading testimony under oath.

    We declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct and that this declaration was executed on March 22, 2005, at Seattle, Washington.

Further reading

Perjury, also known as forswearing, is the willful act of swearing a false oath or affirmation to tell the truth, whether spoken or in writing, concerning matters material to a judicial proceeding. That is, the witness falsely promises to tell the truth about matters which affect the outcome of the case. For example, it is not considered perjury to lie about one's age unless age is a factor in determining the legal result, such as eligibility for old age retirement benefits.

Perjury is considered a serious offense as it can be used to usurp the power of the courts, resulting in miscarriages of justice. In the United States, for example, the general perjury statute under Federal law defines perjury as a felony and provides for a prison sentence of up to five years. On the other hand, the California Penal Code allows for perjury to be a capital offense in cases causing wrongful execution. However prosecutions for perjury are rare. In some countries such as France, Italy, and Germany, suspects cannot be heard under oath or affirmation and thus cannot commit perjury, regardless of what they say during their trial.

The rules for perjury also apply when a person has made a statement under penalty of perjury, even if the person has not been sworn or affirmed as a witness before an appropriate official. An example of this is the United States' income tax return, which, by law, must be signed as true and correct under penalty of perjury (see 26 U.S.C. § 6065). Federal tax law provides criminal penalties of up to three years in prison for violation of the tax return perjury statute. See: 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1)

Statements of interpretation of fact are not perjury because people often make inaccurate statements unwittingly and not deliberately. Individuals may have honest but mistaken beliefs about certain facts, or their recollection may be inaccurate. Like most other crimes in the common law system, to be convicted of perjury one must have had the intention (mens rea) to commit the act, and to have actually committed the act (actus reus). Subornation of perjury, attempting to induce another person to perjure themselves, is itself a crime.

United Kingdom (England and Wales)

Perjury is a statutory offence in England and Wales. It is created by section 1(1) of the Perjury Act 1911 which now reads:

    If any person lawfully sworn as a witness or as an interpreter in a judicial proceeding wilfully makes a statement material in that proceeding, which he knows to be false or does not believe to be true, he shall be guilty of perjury, and shall, on conviction thereof on indictment, be liable to penal servitude for a term not exceeding seven years, or to imprisonment . . . for a term not exceeding two years, or to a fine or to both such penal servitude or imprisonment and fine.

The words omitted were repealed by section 1(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 1948.

Section 1(6) of that Act reads:

    The question whether a statement on which perjury is assigned was material is a question of law to be determined by the court of trial.

Perjury is triable only on indictment. A person convicted of perjury is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years, or to a fine, or to both.

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



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