To prove that someone is guilty of perjury, the prosecutor has to prove the following facts or elements2:
- You took an oath to provide3 information in a truthful manner.
- You willfully4 stated that the information was true knowing that it was in fact false.
- The information was material5
- When you made the statement, you intended to testify falsely while under oath6
- When the information is in a form of a declaration, certification, or deposition, the defendant signed and delivered his/her declaration/deposition/certificate to someone else intending that it be circulated or published as true.7
- You typed up a declaration per your lawyer’s request that contained information that you knew to be false even though you signed the declaration under the penalty of perjury.
- You were a witness at a friend’s homicide trial where you knowingly and intentionally testified falsely while under oath, providing an alibi for your friend.
- You are a notary public who authenticated a document you knew was forged under the penalty of perjury.
- You are a defendant in an hit and run accident and during a deposition, you falsely testified under oath that when you approached the plaintiff’s car after the accident, you detected a strong smell of marijuana; you in fact knew that this was not the case.
If you were under oath to tell the truth in oral or written form but you knowingly provided false information, and in the case of information in written form (i.e. declaration), you intended the information to be circulated or publicized to others, you can be charged with perjury under penal code 118.
There are several defenses that an attorney can assert to fight a charge of perjury under penal code 118 pc.
Mistake Or Misunderstanding
Because one of the elements is that you willfully make a false statement, if you honestly but mistakenly believed your statement to be true, you attorney can argue this defense.8
You Attempted to Correct a False Statement
If you attempted to correct the statement after it was made, that attempt may show that you did not intend to provide false information.9
There was Insufficient Evidence Of Perjury
Where the only proof of the falsity of your statement is the testimony of one other witness which contradicts your statement, it is insufficient to prove perjury.10
However, distinguish this from such evidence emanating from your own statement. In other words, if the statement is false based in whole or in part on your own testimony, the jury can conclude that such evidence is sufficient to establish perjury.
If you had attempted to dissuade that witness you could be charged with dissuading a witness or victim under california penal code 136.1
Perjury is a felony offense in California, so the penalties are harsh.
The judge has discretion to issue the penalty how he sees fit based on the following factors:
- Seriousness of your perjury,
- Your criminal record,
- Whether your perjury harmed another person.
The judge can issue any of the following penalties:
- Felony probation
- Imprisonment in county jail up to 1 year
- Imprisonment in state prison for two, three or four years.
If your perjury caused another individual to be convicted and executed, you could be found guilty of what’s called “aggravated perjury” which is punishable by a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole, or a death sentence.
- An oath is an affirmation or any other method authorized by law to affirm the truth of a statement. [↩]
- Elements. Penal Code 118; CALCRIM No. 2640. [↩]
- Could be in a form of testimony, declaration, deposition, or certification. [↩]
- Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. CALCRIM No. 2640. [↩]
- Information is material if it is probable that the information would influence the outcome of the proceedings, but it does not need to actually have an influence on the proceedings. Knowledge of Materiality is not necessary. Penal Code Section 123. [↩]
- Specific Intent to Testify Falsely Required. People v. Viniegra (1982) 130 Cal.App.3d 577, 584 [181 Cal.Rptr. 848]; see also People v. Hagen (1998) 19 Cal.4th 652, 663–664 [80 Cal.Rptr.2d 24, 967 P.2d 563] [discussing intent requirement for perjury]. [↩]
- Penal Code Section 124; People v. Griffıni (1998) 65 Cal.App.4th 581, 596 [76 Cal.Rptr.2d 590] [delivery requirement applies to “declaration”; discussing at length meaning of “deposition,” “declaration,” “certificate,” and “affidavit”]; Collins v. Superior Court (2001) 89 Cal.App.4th 1244, 1247 [108 Cal.Rptr.2d 123]; People v. Post (2001) 94 Cal.App.4th 467, 480–481 [114 Cal.Rptr.2d 356]. [↩]
- Good Faith Belief Statement True Negates Intent. People v. Von Tiedeman (1898) 120 Cal. 128, 134 [52 P. 155] [cited with approval in People v. Hagen (1998) 19 Cal.4th 652, 663–664 [80 Cal.Rptr.2d 24, 967 P.2d 563]]; People v. Louie (1984) 158 Cal.App.3d Supp. 28, 43 [205 Cal.Rptr. 247]. [↩]
- People v. Baranov (1962) 201 Cal.App.2d 52, 60–61 [19 Cal.Rptr. 866]. [↩]
- There must be some other evidence that the defendant’s statement was false that corroborates the testimony of the witness. People v. Di Giacomo (1961) 193 Cal.App.2d 688, 698 [14 Cal.Rptr. 574]; Penal Code Section 118(b). This other evidence may be direct or indirect. [↩]
- Our perjury defense attorneys practice law throughout Los Angeles, Orange county, Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, San Bernadino County, Riverside, Van Nuys, Long Beach, Encino, Santa Monica, Santa Clarita and throughout Southern California [↩]