Anyone who has ever seen a courtroom drama on TV or at the movies remembers the scene where the witness takes the stand and is sworn in by the judge to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” Only God knows how many of those people actually end up telling the truth. The fanfare around the concept of “telling the truth” within the criminal justice system reveals just how serious lying is taken by those who run the system.
Lying, in many forms, is punished within the criminal justice system in many ways. Someone who is found to have lied may be impeached in front of a judge or jury and have their credibility destroyed. A person who is found deliberately lying may be held in contempt by a judge and taken into custody. The most serious penalties are typically reserved for those who have been found to have lied under oath. In such a circumstance, the accused can be charged with the criminal offense of perjury. If you have found yourself facing criminal charges for perjury, you should not hesitate to contact a skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights.Elements of Perjury
Florida Statute 837.02 creates the criminal charge of perjury and states that “whoever makes a false statement, which he or she does not believe to be true, under oath in an official proceeding in regard to any material matter, commits a felony of the third degree.” If convicted of such an offense, the accused can face penalties of up to five years in prison. The offense level, and therefore the level of punishment that one can receive can be increased based on certain factual circumstances. For example, if you are accused of lying under oath during proceedings for a capital felony, you can be convicted of a second degree felony, punishable by a possible fifteen years imprisonment.
When accused of perjury, some people have tried to defend themselves by claiming that the fact that they lied about was not “material” or important to the outcome of the case. The legislature put a stop to that practice by adding a section to the statute outlawing that defense and making perjury a crime regardless of the materiality of the statement. This addition significantly broadens the potential facts that can lead to a charge and conviction for perjury. For example, if you lie about your age under oath, even if it will not affect the outcome of a case, you could potentially face perjury charges. It is unlikely that a prosecutor would ever charge someone under those circumstances, but the broad nature of the criminal offense must be respected. Because the penalties can be so harsh and a perjury charge can arise from nearly any lie, it is important that you always consult a dedicated St. Petersburg criminal lawyer whenever you are facing criminal charges like perjury.
Perjury and other similar offenses have many defenses that can be exploited by a capable criminal defense attorney. Because it is a requirement that the defendant knows what they are testifying to is a lie, it can be very difficult for prosecutors to prove the charge of perjury. Often, defendants can be their own worst enemy when confronting perjury charges. In order to prove the offense, investigators will often seek to gain an admission from the defendant that he or she knows what they testified about was a lie. It is always important to remember that as a criminal defendant, you have certain rights that can protect you from overzealous police investigation, and that you do not have to speak to investigators if they are investigating you for a crime.Speak to Our Lawyers
The dedicated St. Petersburg criminal defense attorneys at Hanlon Law are here to aid you in battling your criminal charges. We have the experience and dedication you want in a defense attorney. Call us today for a consultation at 727.289.0222.