Crime Overview Perjury

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Due to the sheer number of instances in which United States citizens have to take oaths, testify, and communicate through documents, it's tough to estimate exactly how many people commit perjury each year. However, perjury is a common occurrence in America today, and one of the easiest crimes to let slip through the cracks. In early history, perjury was regarded as more of a sin than a criminal offense. Its severity also varied in accordance with the circumstances; when false testimony led to a death sentence, for example, perjury would be considered a homicide. In modern times, perjury is not considered that serious by most. Yet while perjury may seem innocent enough, it has the potential to cost cities and taxpayers millions of dollars.

In most states, it is a crime to knowingly lie after taking an oath to tell the truth. Additionally, committing perjury can be as simple as signing a document knowing that it contains false statements and information. The technical definition of perjury is the telling of a lie after having taken an oath to tell the truth, usually in a court of law or simply to lie under oath. The matter that is lied about also has to affect the outcome of a case. An example of this would be if any individual fibbed about the year they were born, which wouldn't be considered perjury, unless that was a major factor in having the specific case proven.

In many cases, there is a fine line between the interpretation of a fact and actual perjury. This is because a person can be honest and think a certain fact to be true when it isn't. There are other countries, like France, in which the accused cannot be heard under affirmation or oath, meaning there is no way for them to commit perjury even if they lie during their trial. The attempt to coerce one into committing perjury is also considered a crime, referred to as the subornation of perjury.

Perjury is a common-law crime governed by both state and federal laws, and under federal law, the punishment for perjury in most states is the imposition of a fine, imprisonment, or both. A person who has been convicted of perjury can face a fine of up to $15,000, and/or a prison term of up to 15 years, which all depends on how large the lie was and how much it affected the outcome of a case. Federal law also imposes sentencing enhancements when the court determines that a defendant has falsely testified on his own behalf and is convicted. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the court is required to automatically increase the defendant's sentence. A convicted subject can also have to publicly apologize, or may lose their job (as well as respect from their peers) for committing perjury.

A recent famous case that involved perjury was with Martha Stewart, who was convicted of the intent to commit perjury as well as for lying to a federal agent. Perhaps the most recent notorious case of one who has been accused of perjury was in 1998, when the U.S. President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives for his involvement in an affair with Monica Lewinsky and his lying under oath about it, as well for an obstruction of justice. He ended up being acquitted by the Senate, and he never faced any criminal charges, though he did have to pay a fine for contempt of court.

If you are suing a convicted criminal for damages resulting from perjury, you should hire a civil lawyer or attorney. If the person was not convicted and you want to sue for damages, you should still hire a civil lawyer or attorney.

If you have been accused of perjury, whether you are guilty or not, you should hire a criminal lawyer or attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. Criminal lawyers and attorneys represent individuals who have been charged with crimes by arguing their cases in courts of law.

A criminal attorney will be familiar with important perjury laws and precedents in the state in which the crime took place. They will also be familiar with local court customs and procedures, and will be able to mount the strongest possible defense should your case go to court.

If you are ready to contact a criminal lawyer or attorney, visit the American Bar Association. The American Bar Association website offers free access to their lawyer locater to help you find a criminal lawyer or attorney in your area.