In Florida, it is a violation of both state and federal law for a person to make a statement that he or she knows to be false during legal proceedings. Perjury is considered a serious crime and can have devastating consequences including jail time and hefty fines, so if you or a loved one live in south Florida and were recently charged with perjury, it is crucial to speak with an experienced white collar crime attorney who can help defend your interests.
Florida law distinguishes between perjury offenses that are committed during official proceedings and those that are not. A person who lies under oath during an official proceeding can be charged with a third degree felony, which carries the threat of a five year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine. However, if the false statement was given during an official proceeding and was related to the prosecution of a capital felony, the defendant can be charged with a second degree felony, which could mean imprisonment of up to 15 years.
To be considered official in nature a proceeding must be heard before a legislative, judicial, administrative, or other government agency or official who is authorized to take evidence under oath, including:
- General or special magistrates;
- Administrative law judges;
- Hearing officers;
- Hearing examiners;
- Notaries; or
- Any other person who takes testimony or depositions in connection with an official proceeding.
A person who commits perjury in a nonofficial proceeding can still be charged with a first degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in prison.
In many states, to obtain a conviction for perjury a prosecutor must establish that the false statement given by the defendant was material, or could affect the outcome of the proceeding. Unfortunately, in Florida, prosecutors are not required to prove materiality. As a result, a defendant’s belief that a statement was not material to a proceeding is not a defense to a charge of perjury.
However, in order to prove a charge of perjury, the prosecutor must still demonstrate that:
- The defendant took an oath or affirmation to tell the truth;
- The oath reflected the defendant’s understanding that he or she was bound by conscience or law to testify truthfully; and
- The defendant knew that he or she was presenting a false statement.
There are a number of possible defenses that a person who has been charged with perjury can raise, including that:
- The defendant recanted the false statement during the same legal proceeding before it was identified or affected the proceeding in a substantial way; and
- The defendant committed perjury under duress.
Contact an Experienced White Collar Crime Attorney Today
Being convicted of perjury can have serious consequences, including jail time and hefty fines. Retaining an experienced Florida attorney can make all the difference in a person’s ability to present a solid and convincing defense, so if you have questions or concerns about a charge of perjury, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., Criminal Defense Attorneys by calling 305-670-9919 and a member of our dedicated legal team will help you schedule a free consultation.