Perjury, under New Jersey law, occurs when an individual intentionally makes a false statement under oath. This includes making a false statement in a sworn written document, orally at trial or at a deposition, while giving testimony in a grand jury proceeding, or making false statements to police or authorities.
The false statement must also have been material or substantial enough that it affected, or would have affected, the outcome of a case.
Other instances of perjury can include false representations made on a college application or tax form, if under oath.
The penalties and categories for perjury depend upon the context in which the intentional false testimony, statement or representation is made.
If you should testify falsely in an official proceeding such as a trial or grand jury proceeding, the falsehood must be material. In other words, merely lying about your weight or age would not rise to the level of a material falsehood if the lie was irrelevant to the outcome of the case.
A material falsehood that did affect the outcome of the trial or proceeding is generally considered an offense of the third degree in New Jersey, which carries possible imprisonment of 3-5 years and a fine up to $15,000.
Lying Outside of an Official Proceeding
This includes uttering material falsehoods when preparing a sworn affidavit or making statements under oath while not in a court setting, grand jury, deposition or other type of formal hearing. The offense is also known as “falsely swearing.”
If you should make inconsistent statements on one or more affidavits that were considered material, you could be charged with false swearing or perjury if it is proven that any one of the statements was knowingly untrue when you made it.
Intentionally uttering an untrue oral statement while under oath can
also be actionable as perjury.
This type of perjury is considered a crime of the fourth degree, which carries a penalty of up to 18 months in prison and a possible $10,000 fine.
Lying on certain forms can constitute a federal offense. For example, providing false information or omitting material information on a bankruptcy form could result in dismissal of your bankruptcy and a charge of fraud.
Also, providing false information on your federal tax form could
result in tax evasion charges in federal court.
If the false statement is on a state tax form or application for a driver’s license, you could be charged with a disorderly persons offense.
This includes statements given to police or other authorities that were not given under oath is considered a fourth degree offense.
If you give a false, written statement to police or other authorities that you know to be false, and it was unsworn and not given under penalty of perjury, it is considered a disorderly persons offense. This includes a possible jail sentence of up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000.
Accusing someone of a crime that you know they did not commit is a crime of the fourth degree. However, if you knowingly report to police an offense that was not committed, you could be charged with only a disorderly persons offense.
Attempting or encouraging someone to testify falsely under oath or withhold testimony, information a document or thing is called tampering with a witness otherwise known as “suborning perjury” and is considered a more serious offense and is typically charged as a crime of the third degree.
If a threat of violence is made to coerce the person into testifying falsely, the crime is elevated to a second degree offense, which carries possible prison time of 5-10 years and a fine up to $150,000.
Should there be a threat of violence used to coerce false statements wherein the subject of the case concerns homicide, rape, robbery, terrorism, racketeering and Kidnaping, car jacking, disarming a law enforcement officer, aggravated arson, burglary, producing or possessing chemical weapons or biological agents and extortion, the offense becomes one of the first degree. First degree crimes carry sentences of 10-20 years in prison and fines up to $200,000.
Even if you knowingly make a material false statement at an official proceeding or outside of the proceeding, you still have a chance of insulating yourself from perjury prosecution if you retract the statement before the proceeding or other matter is over. Your retraction must be made before any irreparable harm has occurred to any party.
Also, persons who have made statements under oath or to law enforcement or other authorities not under oath or penalty of perjury cannot be prosecuted for perjury if the only proof of the falsehood of the statement comes from the testimony of only one person, other than the defendant.
Another defense is whether you knew the statement was false when you made it. Often, people will testify without being totally convinced or sure of the accuracy of their statement. This is a question of fact that must be decided by a jury or the finder of fact.
Retaining a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are arrested or charged with perjury, immediately contact a criminal defense attorney. Depending upon the context in which the alleged statement was made, you could be facing serious jail time and the consequences of a conviction that could permanently remain on your criminal record.
After your arrest, do not volunteer any statements or give any information to the police or anyone else about the facts of your case, and say that you will only speak to your own attorney.
If in custody, refrain from talking to any other inmates or persons in detention about your case, or give any details to anyone on a phone.
A criminal conviction can seriously affect your ability to find or retain employment, find housing, obtain credit, travel, obtain a professional license, negatively affect your applications to schools, and hamper your immigration status if you are not a citizen.
Only an experienced criminal defense attorney can ensure that your rights are protected and can carefully examine and explain your rights and related options.