When a Misstatement Becomes Perjury
A false statement made to the government is not necessarily an act of perjury under all circumstances. A key element to any perjury charge is that the government must prove the defendant made their false statement intentionally. Often, this involves them making a false statement with the intent to deceive another party.
For example, you may notice that when you submit a federal tax return, you are promising that this information is true to the best of your knowledge. If you were to make the error of stating that you donated $1,000 to charity in the past year but were not aware that charity was fraudulent, the federal government could not prosecute for intentionally defrauding them.
However, if you were to intentionally underreport the yearly earnings of your business, this is not only perjury, but also an example of tax fraud. Other common examples of situations that can lead to accusations of federal perjury include:
- Intentionally lying while on the witness stand in federal court, either as a defendant or a non-interested witness
- Knowingly making a false statement on a mortgage application
- Knowingly making a false statement on a loan application backed by the federal government
Potential Penalties for a Federal Perjury Conviction
It is essential to understand that perjury is a criminal offense in and of itself. While these accusations may often accompany other criminal charges such as fraud or obstruction of justice, a conviction for perjury would add additional penalties irrespective of those levied for any other charge.
There are multiple federal laws that punish perjury, each with their own specific applicable situations. For example, 18 U.S.C. §1621 criminalizes the act of presenting materially false statements while under oath in a federal proceeding. This includes lying during a federal deposition.
A similar law, 18 U.S.C. §1623, makes it illegal to lie during a federal court session. This can include lying while on the witness stand or during a grand jury hearing.
Convictions under either statute carry harsh penalties, as both these charges are felonies for which the court could impose a maximum prison sentence of five years and order the payment of heavy fines. As such, it could be critical to the success of your case that you retain an experienced federal perjury lawyer in Syracuse to help with your defense.