What Is Perjury?

by Team eLocal
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If you've ever watched a courtroom drama on television, you've probably heard someone swear to "tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" in court. The legal definition of perjury can be more complex.

What Is Perjury?

The basic definition of perjury is lying under oath or providing false testimony. Under federal law 18 U.S.C. §1621, a person is guilty of perjury if they've taken a legally authorized oath to provide true information and they willfully provide information that they don't believe to be true.

Perjury does include lying under oath in court, but it can also include deliberately providing false or misleading information on legal documents. For example, many government forms require a signature affirming "under penalty of perjury" that the information provided is accurate. States also have laws surrounding perjury, and legal definitions may vary.

It’s best to contact an attorney if you have questions or concerns about these laws.

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What Happens to a Person Who Commits Perjury?

A person who provides a false statement under oath may face perjury charges for violating state or federal laws. If convicted of perjury, a person may face fines, jail time and other legal consequences. Penalties may vary depending on whether a person is convicted under state or federal law.

What Is an Example of Perjury?

A prominent example of perjury is lying under oath in court. For instance, a person might offer false testimony to protect a friend accused of a crime. Perhaps the person testifies that their friend couldn’t have possibly committed the crime because they were together at the time, even though that’s not true. This is perjury.

But perjury can occur in less obvious situations as well:

  • Signing a tax return that you know is incorrect so you can pay less in taxes
  • Lying in a deposition or other legal hearings
  • Providing false information on a divorce petition or financial statement

A person is not guilty of perjury if they make a mistake, forget information or believe a statement to be true when it isn't.

Elocal Editorial Content is for educational and entertainment purposes only. The information provided on this site is not legal advice, and no attorney-client or confidential relationship is formed by use of the Editorial Content. We are not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. We cannot provide advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options or strategies. The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the eLocal Editorial Team and other third-party content providers do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of eLocal or its affiliate companies. Use of the Blog is subject to the

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The eLocal Editorial Team operates independently of eLocal USA's marketing and sales decisions.

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Elocal Editorial Content is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Editorial Content should not be used as a substitute for advice from a licensed professional in your state reviewing your issue. The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the eLocal Editorial Team and other third-party content providers do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of eLocal or its affiliate companies. Use of eLocal Editorial Content is subject to the

Website Terms and Conditions.

The eLocal Editorial Team operates independently of eLocal USA's marketing and sales decisions.

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