Perjury is lying – or stating something that you know to be false – under oath. Perjury charges in Florida can lead to different penalties depending on circumstances. According to Florida Statute 837, perjury charges are more serious when they involve legal matters before the court or legislature, which are “official proceedings.” Perjury, like any criminal charge in Florida, is a serious matter. If you face perjury charges, it’s crucial to get expert legal advice as soon as possible. For a free consultation with an experienced Orlando criminal defense lawyer at the Rivas Law Firm, call 407-644-2466
We usually think of a witness telling lies on the stand during a trial. But prosecutors can charge you with perjury in other settings as well. For example, two council members for the City of Sebastian face perjury charges for allegedly lying to investigators about an illegal meeting to install a new mayor. In another case, prosecutors with perjury by false declaration on reports following the death of an inmate. And federal prosecutors charged Ghislaine Maxwell with perjury for allegedly lying during a civil lawsuit involving the Jeffrey Epstein case.
Perjury has become one of the “shortcut offenses” that prosecutors sometimes charge when underlying charges may be too time-consuming, complicated, or hard to prove. For instance, Martha Stewart went to prison for perjury and obstruction. Legal experts refer to these as “process crimes.” These obstruction-of-justice violations occur during the investigation of a crime. They are generally easier to prosecute than the underlying charges. In Stewart’s case, prosecutors figured it would be easier to prove that she lied during the investigation than trying to educate jurors about complex insider trading laws.
What is the Penalty for Perjury in Florida?
Lying under oath when testifying at a trial is generally a third-degree felony, which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison as well as fines and probation. But giving false testimony during a trial for a capital crime such as murder is a second-degree felony. The sentence for a second-degree felony is up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Perjury in unofficial proceedings — routine matters like business contracts or government permits – is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, which can result in a sentence of up to a year in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
Defense against Perjury Charges
To convict you of perjury, a prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intentionally made statements under oath that you knew to be false. But matters of intent and knowledge can be hard to prove. Your defense attorney may be able to argue that you did not
intend to lie or that you did not know the statements were false. Perhaps someone intimidated you or forced you into making a false statement. Maybe you weren’t technically under oath at the time you made the statements. There may be situations in which a defendant can recant testimony.
An aggressive and experienced criminal defense attorney will thoroughly investigate all aspects of your situation and challenge the prosecution at every turn. To discuss what your best defense to criminal charges may be, call 407-644-2466 for a free consultation with the Rivas Law Firm.