Perjury Law Defense

Penal Code 118a & 118(a)

Information regarding the crime of perjury is found at California penal code section 118a and 118(a). To prove that the defendant is guilty of perjury, the prosecutor must prove:

  • The defendant testified, under penalty of perjury, in a court of law or on legal documents, and
  • The defendant knew that he or she was testifying under oath or penalty of perjury, and
  • When the defendant testified, he or she willfully stated information was true when he or she knew it was false, and
  • The information was material to the case (not some trivial misrepresentation)

In sum, perjury is defined as testifying falsely while under oath to any officer, tribunal, or person, or declaring under penalty of perjury that something is true when the defendant knows it to be false.

When perjury is charged after false testimony is given in court the defendant is charged with penal code 118(a) [Perjury under oath]

When perjury is charged after legal documents are filed with false information, or missing information that was intended to defraud, the defendant is charged with penal code 118a [Perjury by false affidavit].

For example: If the defendant signs legal documents with the welfare department to receive welfare benefits, and the defendant includes false information, or excludes pertinent information, on the welfare documents, he or she may be charged with perjury, if he or she knew the information was false, because welfare documents are legal documents that are signed under penalty of perjury. The Defendant may also be charged with welfare fraud under this example (Perjury by false affidavit PC 118a).

Example 2: If a defendant father testifies under oath in a child support case that he earns less money than he actually earns, he may be charged with perjury, because the issue of his finances is pertinent to the case and he would have sworn under oath to tell the truth before the testimony was given in court (Perjury under oath PC 118(a). 

Punishment for PC 118a & 118(a) Crimes

Both perjury crimes (PC 118a & 118(a)) are classified as a felonies in California. If the defendant is found guilty of perjury under oath (PC 118(a), the defendant may be punished by up to four years in the state prison. If the defendant is found guilty of perjury by false affidavit (PC 118a), the defendant may face up to three (3) years in prison).

Probation Sentence: In some perjury cases it may be possible to have the charges dismissed or reduced. In other perjury cases a sentence of probation (without prison or jail) may be possible. Whether or not a perjury charge is dismissed, reduced, or granted probation depends largely on the egregiousness of the case and the defendant’s criminal history.

Strike Crime: PC 118a and 118(a) crimes are not considered strike crimes as those terms are found in California’s Three Strikes Sentencing Law. If found guilty of either perjury charge the defendant may be eligible for early parole pursuant to Prop 57 (early release on parole for non-violent offenders). Also, the defendant may earn at least fifty percent (50%) credit off his or her sentence for any good time behavior while in jail or prison.

Moral Turpitude: Perjury is considered a crime of moral turpitude, which means that the crime is considered to be a moral wrong. Crimes of moral turpitude carry special punishments for non-U.S. citizens and licenses professional (i.e. doctors, dentist, nurses, lawyers, etc.).

Firearm Prohibition: If found guilty of perjury under either PC 118a or 118(a) the defendant will be prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm for the remainder of his or her life.

Collateral Punishment: In addition to any jail or prison sentencing, criminal convictions for perjury crimes can lead to other severe consequences such as: Immigration issues (non-U.S. citizens), harsh probation or parole terms, fines, lawsuits, employment loss, civil lawsuits, increased punishment for future criminal convictions, and more.

Defense to PC 118a & 118(a) [Perjury]

Common defenses to perjury charges include: lack of jurisdiction on perjury by affidavit, mistake of fact as to what the defendant was signing, statute of limitations (could be very long in fraud type cases), duress, necessity, intoxication, insanity, coerced confessions, and more.

To learn more about the crime of Perjury and defenses to penal code 118a and 118(a), contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Our criminal defense attorneys are successful, aggressive, and have handles hundreds of criminal cases, including perjury cases, in the Inland Empire and Los Angeles County. Call today!

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