Truthful court testimonies are the backbone of the American justice system. Without the truth, there can’t be justice. Even so, there are several cases of witnesses lying under oath.
In Florida state, perjury, or simply lying under oath, is a serious offense that comes with severe punishments and hefty penalties. And while in most cases, the difficulty of prosecuting perjury crimes results in the justice system turning a blind eye to false testimonies even when made under oath, there are times when guilty persons are held accountable.
If you’ve been charged with the crime of perjury in Florida, Meltzer & Bell P.A. can help. Our criminal defense Lawyers have experience fighting criminal charges of perjury. We represent people charged with perjury under Florida Statute §837.02 for making false statements during an official proceeding and under Florida Statute § 837.012 for making false statements during non-official proceedings.
Call us at (561) 557-8686 to discuss your case.
What is Perjury
Perjury occurs when one knowingly makes a false or misleading statement under oath. Chapter 837 of the Florida Statutes holds that a crime of perjury is committed when someone:
- Appears before a person who is authorized to administer oaths or affirmations
- Makes an oath swearing or affirming to only speak the truth
- Makes a false statement regarding some material matter while under oath
- Did not believe the statement was true when they made it
Knowledge of the statement’s materiality isn’t an element of the crime, and a defendant’s mistaken belief that their statement wasn’t material isn’t a defense to the charge. Florida law requires that the judge determines the materiality of a statement, and the jury doesn’t have to concern itself with that issue.
Perjury is considered a crime against the justice system, given that lying under oath compromises the authority and integrity of the courts, grand juries, public officials, and governing bodies.
What are the Penalties for Perjury in Florida
The penalties for committing perjury depend on the context of the proceedings and where they took place.
Perjury in an Official Proceeding
An official proceeding involves a government agency, a judicial, legislative, or administrative body, or an official with the authority to consider evidence under oath. This includes judges in a criminal or civil proceeding, magistrates, hearing officers, hearing examiners, commissioner, notary, and any other person authorized to take deposition or testimony.
Perjury in an official proceeding has a level 4 security rating under Florida’s Criminal Punishment code. To prove perjury in an official proceeding, the prosecutor must show that the defendant took an oath or affirmation obligating them by law or conscience to speak the truth in the official proceeding and failed to do so.
This offense is a third-degree felony in Florida and is punishable by up to five in prison, up to five years of probation, and a $5,000 fine.
Perjury in an Unofficial Proceeding
Perjury in an unofficial proceeding is basically similar to those in an official proceeding, except that it takes place in a proceeding that isn’t official. An example is making false statements on a marriage license.
In Florida, perjury in an unofficial proceeding is a first-degree misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to one year in jail, up to one year of probation, and a maximum of $1000 in fines.
Perjury in an Official Capital Prosecution Proceeding
There’s one situation where the penalties for perjury are even more severe: in an official capital prosecution proceeding. The Florida state assigns this offense a level 8 severity ranking under its Criminal Punishment Code.
Perjury in an official capital prosecution proceeding is a second-degree felony. It is punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison, a maximum of 15 years of probation, or a maximum of $10,000 in fines.
Perjury by Contradictory Statements
Perjury by contradictory statements occurs when someone makes two or more material statements under oath that contradict each other in the course of one or more official proceedings. In such cases, the prosecutor doesn’t need to show which – if any—of the statements are true. Moreover, it is not necessarily a defense that the accused believed their statements were true at the time they made them.
In Florida, perjury by contradictory statements is a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison, up to five years of probation, and $5,000 in fines.
Defense to Perjury
The specific defenses for the crime of perjury include:
- Materiality: Technically, materiality isn’t a defense under Florida law but a threshold issue decided by the presiding judge as a matter of law. As such, if it can be shown that the false statement didn’t relate to a material matter, the perjury charge can be dismissed without a trial.
- Recantation: Recantation can be a defense for any perjury charge only if the person making the false statement that the statement is false in the same continuous matter or proceeding. However, the false statement must not have significantly affected the proceeding. Also, such admission must be made before it becomes clear that the false statement has been or will be exposed.
- Duress: The defendant could also argue that they gave the false statement due to threat or coercion. Proving duress entails the defendant showing an immediate or impending fear or showing that they had reasonable grounds to fear the consequences of failing to make false statements.
Fight Perjury Charges with the Help of a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you or your loved one has been charged with perjury in Florida, Meltzer & Bell, P.A. can help. Our Florida criminal defense attorneys have experience handling perjury cases and can help acquit you of the charges. We will find out what evidence the prosecutor has against you and provide you with options on how to proceed with the case. Of course, we can also take the case to trial and provide you with a strong defense.
We represent clients charged with felony and misdemeanor, including perjury, in Palm Beach, Miami, Broward, Fort Pierce, and Stuart.
Contact Meltzer & Bell, P.A. today to request a free case evaluation. You can reach us 24/7.