During criminal and civil trials, individuals may be requested to testify or answer questions under oath. Lying while under oath is known as perjury and can lead to felony criminal charges, which will adversely affect an individual. In Michigan, as opposed to other states, it doesn’t matter if the perjury was related to a material fact. It can still result in a felony charge. If you are asked a question and knowingly provide a false statement for any reason, you could end up in jail.
If you have been charged with perjury or are wondering if you are required to tell the truth about something while under oath, contacting a criminal defense attorney can help. Our team is ready to fight for your best interests and provide the best defense possible for your case. Contact us today at (248) 247-7459 or by completing an online form.
Perjury In Michigan Court Proceedings
When testifying in a court proceeding, regardless of whether a criminal or civil trial, the witness or party must take an oath that they will testify truthfully. As a result, it is a crime to knowingly make false statements while testifying during a court proceeding.
However, truth is subjective to the person speaking. For example, if someone believes they are telling the truth but ends up being wrong, that is not perjury because they did not intentionally make a false statement. Although, making a false statement during a court proceeding, regardless of intent, could be considered perjury. The evidence may be evaluated by the prosecutor’s office in the county where the false statement was made under oath. If the prosecution believes the individual knew or should have known their statement was false, they can be charged with perjury.
If perjury was committed in a court proceeding and the prosecution can prove that the defendant knew their statements were false, they may be convicted and face up to 15 years in prison.
Perjury By False Statements
You can also be convicted of perjury for making false statements even when you are not testifying in a court proceeding. To be convicted of perjury for false statements, the prosecution must establish the following:
- The individual took an oath to tell the truth;
- The oath was authorized or required by the State of Michigan;
- That a false statement was made while the person was under oath; and
- That the individual knew that the statement they made was false.
Under Michigan case law, you can be convicted of perjury for a false written statement. So, for example, suppose you apply for a state assistance program and sign a document that contains a declaration that, under the penalties of perjury, the applicant the statements made in the application are true. If your statements are false to your knowledge, you can be charged with perjury. The penalty for perjury by a false statement is up to 15 years in prison.
Perjury By False Declaration
As of 2013, perjury can also occur when someone makes a false declaration in a record. To be convicted of perjury by false declaration in Michigan, the prosecution must prove all of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- If the individual puts their signature on the record, the record must be capable of being retrieved or recovered so that it can be seen, heard, or perceived in some way;
- The record included a provision that the declaration was being made under the penalty of perjury;
- That the record actually contained a false statement; and
- That the individual knew that the statement was false when it was made.
The penalty for perjury by false declaration is up to 15 years in prison.
It is also illegal to incite or induce someone else to commit perjury. An individual can be convicted of inciting or procuring perjury if the prosecution can prove the following:
- The individual did something to get someone else to make a false statement under oath or affirmation;
- The individual knew the statement was false when they tried to persuade someone to make the statement; and
- The oath was authorized or required by the State of Michigan.
To be convicted of inciting perjury, the person making the statement does not actually have to make the false statement. Instead, there only needs to be an effort to get them to make a false statement. So, for example, if someone paid a witness to make a false statement during the trial and the witness did not, the person who paid them could still be charged with inciting perjury and face up to five years in prison.
Subornation Of Perjury
Subornation of perjury is similar to inciting perjury because it requires someone to have another person make a false statement. The main difference between subornation perjury and inciting perjury is that the person under oath must actually make the false statement to be convicted of subornation perjury. Someone convicted of subornation of perjury will face up to five years in prison.
Defenses To Perjury
There are a variety of defenses that an experienced attorney may employ when defending someone charged with perjury, including:
- The defendant did not know the statement was false: To be convicted of perjury, you must knowingly make a false statement. Therefore, if someone makes a false statement thinking it is the truth, they have not committed perjury.
- The statement was not false: You cannot be convicted of perjury if you did not make a false statement. Therefore, if the statement was true, your defense team will show that the statement was true, and the perjury charge will likely be dismissed, or you will be found not guilty.
- Duress: If you perjure yourself because you believe your life or someone you know life is in immediate danger if you did not, you may have a viable duress defense.
- The false statement was recanted: If you make a false statement, then correct your statement by telling the truth, while under the same oath, you have a strong defense against perjury. For example, if you make a false statement during your testimony in a court proceeding and then correct the false statement during your testimony, you likely successfully recanted your false statement and have a strong defense against the perjury charge.
Consult A Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or someone you know is facing perjury charges in Michigan or has questions about upcoming testimony, contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney can make a difference. The attorneys of George Law will review the facts of your case and determine the best defense strategy moving forward. Contact us today at (248) 247-7459 or by filling out our online form.