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When a Witness Lies Under Oath

When a Witness Lies Under Oath

A witness who lies under oath is committing a criminal act and can be charged with perjury, a serious offense with legal consequences.

Lying Under Oath Is a Crime

People who testify in court are ordered to tell the truth. Disobeying this court order can result in serious penalties. Lying on the stand under oath is known as perjury, a serious offense that may require defense from a criminal attorney. A witness charged with perjury can face steep monetary fines, probation, jail time, and even problems with security clearances and gainful employment.

Perjury is often considered obstruction of justice because it compromises the integrity of the entire justice system. Perjury is not just saying something under oath that another side disagrees with or has a different recollection or opinion about. Perjury is knowingly making false or misleading statements while under oath that intentionally deceive the court. Since judges and juries make decisions based on witness testimonies and evidence, lying under oath can cause significant harm to a defendant in a criminal case. An innocent defendant may be found guilty for a crime that he/she did not commit based on untruthful testimony.

Legal Consequences of Perjury

Committing perjury is considered a criminal matter, not a civil matter. If a witness lies under oath, he/she can face arrest and criminal punishments. There is no legal recourse to recover restitution for a person who is harmed by a dishonest testimony. However, if it is discovered that the witness lied on the stand, an attorney can ask that criminal perjury charges be filed against the witness. That evidence can also be cause for an appeal if the court denies the request for perjury charges. The law does not favor civil remedies against a witness who commits perjury.

A witness who commits perjury can face state and federal criminal charges. Under federal law, a person convicted of perjury can be imprisoned in a federal penitentiary for up to five years. Immigrants who are not U.S. citizens can face deportation. In Minnesota, a perjury conviction is punishable by fines up to $10,000 and prison time up to five years. If a witness lies in a felony trial, perjury is punishable by fines up to $14,000 and prison time up to seven years.

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