Generally, it is a crime to make an untrue statement under oath. In Virginia, as in other jurisdictions, this crime is known as perjury, and it has a very specific definition that is found in the Virginia statutes.
How Perjury Is Committed in Virginia
According to Virginia law, a person commits perjury if that person:
- Makes a False Statement Under Oath. Perjury occurs if the person knowingly swears falsely about a material matter or thing while under a lawfully administered oath. This includes verbal statements and written statements.
- Lying to Get a Minor Child a Marriage License. Virginia law considers making false statements under oath that someone else is 18 years old or older in order to obtain a marriage license for that person a form of perjury.
- Makes a False Statement in a Legal Document. Any knowingly false statements that a person provides on official documents, such as a marriage certificate or driver’s license, may be perjury.
- Gives Conflicting Testimony. A person may commit perjury by intentionally testifying falsely under oath about any material matter and then later giving conflicting testimony under oath about the same thing. For an indictment, it is sufficient to allege this offense of perjury by stating the person charged with the crime knowingly and with the intent to testify falsely gave testimony on one occasion and later give different testimony on the same matter. At a trial for the indictment, the Commonwealth must prove that the defendant knowingly and with the intent to testify falsely gave differing testimony on two occasions.
- Encourages Another Person to Commit Perjury. A person may be convicted of perjury if the person procures or induces another person to commit perjury or give false testimony in violation of Virginia law. Specifically, a person can be charged with perjury for procuring, inducing, counseling, or advising someone else to commit perjury.
You cannot commit perjury by accident. Before a conviction, the Commonwealth must prove that you knowingly lied or provided untrue statements, or that you encouraged someone else to do so. However, that can be difficult to do without the help of an experienced Virginia criminal defense lawyer.
It may be challenging to defend yourself against perjury charges, but it is possible to do so, and it is important to do so. Perjury is a Class 5 felony in Virginia, and the potential penalties can be significant. If you are convicted of a Class 5 felony, then you may face:
- Up to 10 years in prison
- A fine of up to $2,500
Additionally, anyone convicted of perjury in Virginia may face lifelong consequences. For example, a person convicted of perjury is forever barred from holding any office of honor, profit, or trust under the Virginia Constitution and may no longer serve as a juror.
In some cases, the court may decide to try your case as a misdemeanor, and you may face a reduced sentence of up to 12 months in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
When to Call A Perjury Defense Lawyer
Given the significance of the potential penalties and the discretion of the court, it is essential to contact an experienced Fairfax criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Perjury is known as a crime against justice because it interferes with the judicial system, and Virginia courts take this kind of crime very seriously. Accordingly, you need to take the charges against you seriously as well.
Our attorneys will carefully consider all of the evidence against you, correct any potential misunderstandings with the government, and present all applicable defenses on your behalf. Specifically, we will determine whether the statement you made was under a legally valid oath, whether the statement was knowingly false, and whether the statement was materially relevant to the matter at hand.
To learn more, call us today or fill out our online contact form to have us contact you. Together, we can discuss the charges against you and how to protect your legal rights and future.