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California Perjury Laws

California Law, Legal Forms

There are a few types of criminal perjury and subornation of perjury (requesting that someone lie under oath) in California. Those involved in lawsuits or even just signing legal forms should be aware of what constitutes this criminal act.

Many people think all lies under oath are perjury. This is not true because only material falsehoods are perjury. However, what is material is not so clear. Thus, those who are making affidavits or other reports or testifying under oath should take care to tell the truth in all instances. A shrewd prosecutor could argue that just about any fact is somehow material to the proceedings, so it is wise not to try to justify any lies under oath.

With that said, perjury is essentially a knowing lie under oath that is material when given in front of an authorized public official. The same applies when a statement is written or spoken under penalty of perjury. For example, a person filling out an affidavit completes the form and has it notarized. Knowingly false statements in that affidavit could be perjury. The other element is that California law must authorize such oath or statement under penalty of perjury.

Warning: When a person testifies about something as if it is the truth when he is not really sure whether it is true or not, that is also perjury. In other words, you cannot testify simply hoping that something is true if such statement or testimony is material (may affect the proceedings). You will need to say that you think that the statement is true but are not certain.

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Warning: Some people sign statements or give deposition testimony out of state. This is not a defense and may still be California perjury so long as the oath is administered in accordance with California law.

Subornation of perjury is simply asking someone to lie. For example, getting your friend to say he was an eyewitness to a car wreck and falsely claiming that the other person caused the wreck would be perjury on the part of the friend and subornation of perjury on your part.

Evidence Required for Perjury: One of the reasons many people are not prosecuted after lying in divorce cases is the type of proof required for a perjury conviction in California. The state may not simply call one person to say that a person lied under oath. At least two people must present such evidence if it is direct evidence. However, circumstantial evidence may be used to show that a person committed perjury even if no person can directly contradict an alleged lie.

California Prison Sentence for Perjury: The standard penalty for perjury or subornation of perjury in this state is two, three or four years of imprisonment.

Filing a False Report: This is a variation of perjury and applies only to police officers submitting knowingly false statements in an official report filed with the agency where he is employed. This crime applies only to criminal investigations. The punishment for such a crime is either one year in the county jail or one, two, or three years in state prison.

Perjury in Death Penalty Cases: This is a special law in California. If a perjurer causes an innocent person to be both convicted and executed, he may also get either the death penalty or life in prison without parole. This also applies to subornation of perjury.

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California Statutes on Perjury