When it comes to your day in court, telling the truth vs. telling a lie could mean the difference between freedom and being behind bars.
Making false statements during an investigation can result in hefty fines and jail time, not to mention ruining your reputation.
The legal system has a special word for making false statements under oath: perjury.
Are you or a loved one facing perjury charges for lying under oath or in a legal document?
If so, there are defenses for perjury charges. The first step to building a strong defense is to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney about your case.
To help you prepare for your attorney consultation, we’ve put together some basic information for you that addresses the most common concerns of our clients facing perjury charges.
Understanding the basics of perjury
The most basic definition of perjury is lying under oath. However, that description applies to more than just giving false testimony on a witness stand in a courtroom.
You can also commit perjury by providing false or misleading information in legally binding documents or during depositions in which you swore to tell the truth.
Other examples of perjury include:
- Intentionally omitting income from your federal tax return
- Understating your monthly income
- Providing a false alibi to law enforcement
Even if you have what you think is a good reason to lie, committing perjury is a crime against justice.
3 ways to commit perjury in SC:
South Carolina Code describes three types of perjury. If you’re caught in any one of these three situations, the State can prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.
- You willfully provide false, misleading or incomplete testimony while under oath in any court proceeding, whether judicial, administrative or regulatory.
- You willfully provide false, misleading or incomplete information on a document required by the state, such as forms, records and reports.
- You persuade or coerce another person to commit perjury.
Regardless of how you commit perjury, you will face severe consequences if caught. The State doesn’t take crimes against justice lightly.
Penalties for Perjury
The penalties for perjury can include a monetary fine, a jail sentence, or both a fine and time behind bars. The specific penalties will depend on how the perjury occurred as well as other factors.
Perjury while under oath in a proceeding
Perjury that occurs under oath in a legal proceeding is a felony, and the possible penalties include:
|Felony||At the court’s discretion*||Up to 5 years|
*South Carolina law sets the fine “at the discretion of the court,” so the judge who oversees your case will decide the amount of your fine at your sentencing hearing if you’re convicted. The judge may also elect to sentence you with both a fine and jail time.
Perjury on a document
Lying on a legally binding document like a tax return is a misdemeanor charge.
The potential penalties are:
|Misdemeanor||$100 or more||Up to 6 months*|
*You may also receive both a fine and jail time for perjuring a document.
Factors that may impact your perjury sentence:
Whether you are facing perjury charges for lying under oath or lying on a document, the following factors could influence the outcome of your case if the judge finds you guilty of the charges.
Judicial discretion means the judge presiding over your case gets to use his or her judgment to decide your sentence when laws and statutes include wide ranges for penalties or vague sentencing guidelines.
In perjury cases, judicial discretion plays a significant role in sentencing, especially since the state statute specifically calls out judicial discretion in the sentencing guidelines.
Defense attorney’s mitigating argument
A mitigating argument is an attempt to persuade the judge to hand down a lighter sentence.
Your defense lawyer will argue that your punishment for perjury should not be severe because of positive factors in your background, such as:
- Lack of a criminal record
- Robust support system of family and friends
- Charity or volunteer work
Defenses to Perjury
Perjury may seem like a straightforward charge. After all, you either lied or you told the truth, right?
In reality, perjury has some gray areas that provide criminal defense attorneys with opportunities to build a strong defense against perjury charges for their clients.
Here are a few common defenses to perjury charges that could apply to your case:
- Recounting the true statements that you made, whether you were trying to be misleading or not
- Arguing you made false statements against your will—for example, someone forced you to lie
- Explaining you did not know at the time that your statements were false—you thought you were telling the truth
An experienced defense lawyer may have additional defense tactics pertinent to your case that might be useful in fighting your perjury charges.
When lying doesn’t help you, maybe a lawyer can.
If you or someone you care about has committed perjury, the best course of action is to get a qualified defense attorney on your case. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will help you explore all your options.
Our legal team at Kent Collins Law is here to help you make the most of a bad situation. Schedule a free, in-person consultation today.
Fill out our online form or call us at 803-808-0905.