Lying Under Oath: California Perjury Laws

Lying Under Oath: California Perjury Laws

by | Feb 19, 2019

Lying under oath is always a bad idea. But not only is it a bad idea, it’s also a criminal offense in both state and federal court. When someone deliberately lies under oath and is caught doing so, they are charged with committing perjury.

In California, you are subject to being prosecuted for perjury if you willfully give false information in any of the following circumstances:

  • When testifying in court
  • When being deposed
  • In a signed affidavit
  • In a signed declaration
  • In a signed certificate

In both federal court and in California (other states may differ), perjury is charged as a felony offense, which is a serious crime.

Penalties For Committing Perjury

Perjury is punishable by a sentence of up to four years in California State Prison, if convicted. However, judges have relatively broad discretion when deciding a perjury sentence and can choose to impose much less, or even zero, actual jail time.

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Defending Against Perjury Charges

Even though perjury charges are taken very seriously in the California legal system, most perjury cases are not simple “black and white” matters. Perjury is often a difficult charge for prosecutors to prove, and it’s not uncommon for innocent people to be wrongly accused of it.

For a criminal defense attorney, defending against charges of perjury means forcing the prosecution to prove, among other things, that:

  • A client’s statement was knowingly false, rather than simply mistaken
  • A client didn’t misunderstand the question
  • The false statement related to a significant issue
  • A client was technically under oath at the time

More often than not, there may be elements of both truth and deception in statements that are called into question by the prosecution. Definitively proving that someone committed perjury in that situation is incredibly difficult, and is why few perjury cases are brought.

Working With An Attorney

A good criminal defense lawyer will never ask or recommend their clients commit perjury to help their case. Not only does it put a client at tremendous risk personally, it puts the client’s entire case in jeopardy as well.

Finally, any lawyer caught telling a client to commit perjury could be subject to prosecution and disbarment for the crime of inciting perjury, which is also a felony.

At Quinnan Law, we know how to defend our clients and get the best results possible without having to resort to unethical tactics. To learn more about how we can help defend you, please contact our offices today.


At Quinnan Law, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 540-2356.

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