Charges for Lying Under Oath in New York City

When a person swears under oath to tell the truth, failing to do so can lead to criminal prosecution. This extends beyond taking the stand and testifying at a hearing or trial, certain documents that people sign carry the same weight as if a person had placed their hand on the Bible and sworn before a judge to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Most people are familiar with the concept of perjury, testifying falsely under oath, and are aware that they can get in trouble if they get caught lying while testifying.  We can all appreciate the gravity of the courtroom setting and the formality of walking to the witness box, placing one’s hand on the Bible, then swearing to give an honest account. Still, many people fail to grasp that putting their signature on a criminal complaint, a domestic incident report or any other document which commits the signer to tell the truth has the exact same effect. If you are facing charges for lying under oath in New York City, you should obtain an experienced defense attorney at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman. 

What is Perjury?

Perjury is defined by the Penal Law as simply swearing falsely. It has a related charge of Making a Punishable Written False Statement. Prosecutors tend to charge Perjury for testimony that is determined to have been untruthful. Charges for Making a Punishable Written False Statement typically happen when a person is required to swear to the veracity of a document they are signing and lies on the paper. For example, courts have upheld convictions for individuals who have provided false information on applications for pistol permits, or marriage licenses, or civil court affidavits alleging police misconduct.

To convict a person for Making a Punishable Written False Statement, it must be clear that the individual signing the document is swearing to the truth of the document, vague or noncommittal language is insufficient. Typically, there will be a line on the document indicating either that the person has been duly sworn and makes the statement under oath, or that the person understands that false statements made in the document subject the signer to liability pursuant to Penal Law section 210.45.

Requirements for a Conviction of Lying Under Oath

Both Perjury and Making a Punishable Written False Statement are class A misdemeanors, which means that a conviction can result in up to one year of jail time. When someone is charged with lying under oath in New York City, the prosecutor is required to show that the defendant not only said or wrote something that was not true, but that they did so intentionally. A person cannot be convicted for making an honest mistake. If they truly believe that they are telling the truth, but it later becomes clear that their testimony was incorrect, then they do not have the required mental state to commit the crime of Perjury or Making a Punishable False Statement. This is often a strong defense to these types of charges. It can be difficult for a prosecutor to affirmatively show that an individual intentionally misled others with their sworn statements.

Situations Involving Lying Under Oath

Apart from the obvious situations where a witness is shown to be lying under oath in court either to benefit one party or damage another, we also commonly see these charges after a domestic violence arrest. Occasionally, once the incident is over, the domestic violence victim will regret having the defendant arrested and may try to undo the arrest by going to the police and prosecutor and swearing that nothing happened or that the whole thing was made up.

Often, law enforcement will try to explain to the individual that by recanting, they are admitting that the information in the domestic incident report – information which was sworn to under oath — is false.  If the person continues to claim that the story was made up, the prosecutor may elect to prosecute the original victim for the false statements in the domestic incident report.

Speak with a New York City Attorney About Charges for Lying Under Oath

If you, or a loved one, has been charged with Perjury or Making a Punishable False Statement, call the experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman immediately.  We could investigate and examine the prosecutor’s ability to prove your intention to lie and determine the best way to proceed. Call us today to learn more about charges for lying under oath in New York City.

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