6 Things You Should Know About “Perjury” Laws

This article explains the law in California

Under California Penal Code 118 pc, perjury is when you intentionally provide false information that you know to be false while you are under oath1.

How Does The Prosecutor Prove Perjury?

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

Examples Of Perjury

  • 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.

Who Can Be Charged With Penal Code 118?

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.


You are the passenger in a vehicle that has been the cause of an accident.  The driver of the vehicle flees the scene of the crime and commits a violation of vehicle code 20002 VC – Hit and Run.

During a trial you tell the court under oath that he did not hit the vehicle in question.  Under this scenario, you may be guilty of perjury.

Legal Defenses to Perjury Charges

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

What Are The Penalties & Punishment For Perjury?

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:

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.

Next Steps If You Need Help

For general questions please leave them in the comments below and we will answer them promptly.

If you would like to discuss a pending case with an attorney11 from out firm contact the Aizman Law Firm at 818-351-9555 for a free confidential consultation.


  1. An oath is an affirmation or any other method authorized by law to affirm the truth of a statement. []
  2. Elements. Penal Code 118; CALCRIM No. 2640. []
  3. Could be in a form of testimony, declaration, deposition, or certification. []
  4. Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. CALCRIM No. 2640. []
  5. 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. []
  6. 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]. []
  7. 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]. []
  8. 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]. []
  9. People v. Baranov (1962) 201 Cal.App.2d 52, 60–61 [19 Cal.Rptr. 866]. []
  10. 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. []
  11. 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 []

1 comment

how do you feel about someone lying to get a restraining of civil harassment? Nothing they stated had any truth to it. At the time of the hearing can the judge charge that person with perjury if in fact that she can not provided any truth and the defendant can prove it?

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