Understanding Perjury

We constantly see it in court shows and crime dramas—the individuals in a court room say the phrase “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” as they raise their right hand. By doing this simple action, they are put under the laws that apply when sworn into court, making everything they say the truth or perjury. But understanding perjury and what constitutes perjury can be confusing.

Perjury, put simply, is lying under oath. However, in order to be convicted, you have to be proven to have intended to mislead the court during the proceedings. If a witness knows the real details of a crime by being a first hand witness, but lies about the details to protect their friend who is being charged with the crime, this is an example of perjury.

Perjury is not just as simple as lying though. In order to be considered perjury, the lie has to be committed under oath. This means that if a person was not sworn into court and put under oath, they cannot commit the crime of perjury. Crimes of perjury can also not be committed outside of official proceedings. So lies told in interviews with law officials or a lawyer are not subject to being convicted of perjury. But if the witness or accused later signs the statements made in an interview under oath, they can now be convicted of perjury.

The kinds of statements that constitute perjury can also be complicated. For example, false testimony resulting from a lapse of memory, confusion, or simply mistake do not fall under the law of perjury. However, inconsistent testimonies can be perjury. This means that if at one point, a person claims to not know events of a crime but later can tell them in detail, they may be guilty of perjury.

But not all lies made in court are perjury—they have to be directly related to the subject and capable of influencing the outcome to be considered perjury. So even if a person lies about their age under oath, since this would not affect the outcome of the case, it is not considered perjury. This also means that even if the ruling of the case was not changed by the lie the person told in court, they can still be found guilty of perjury.
Perjury can carry fines and even jail sentences. Visit this website to view more about perjury and the punishments associated with it.

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