Perjury is the “willful and corrupt taking of a false oath in regard to a material matter in a judicial proceeding.” It is sometimes called “lying under oath;” which means deliberately telling a lie in a courtroom proceeding after having taken an oath to tell the truth.
According to 18 USCS § 1621, a person commits perjury when s/he, having taken an oath before a competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any case in which a law of the U.S. authorizes an oath to be administered, that s/he will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly, or that any written testimony, declaration, deposition, or certificate by him/her subscribed, is true, willfully and contrary to such oath states or subscribes any material matter which s/he does not believe to be true; or in any declaration, certificate, verification, or statement under penalty of perjury, willfully subscribes as true any material matter which s/he does not believe to be true.
In order for a person to be found guilty of perjury, the government must prove that:
- the person testified under oath before;
- at least one particular statement was false; and
- the person knew at the time that the testimony was false.
There must be additional evidence, either the testimony of more than one witness or other evidence, which tends to support the testimony of falsity.
Perjury is considered a serious offense, because it can be used to usurp the power of the courts resulting in miscarriages of justice. 18 USCS § 1622 states that whoever procures another to commit any perjury is guilty of subornation of perjury, and shall be fined or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.