What Is The Law On Perjury Of Oath In Virginia And What Are The Punishments For It?
In the state of Virginia, the perjury of oath is a criminal offense. It belongs to a category violations termed as ‘Crimes against Justice’. At its most basic tenet, perjury is lying after taking an oath. Why this is considered very serious?
Perjury prevents the criminal justice system from operating the way it should. A lie, however big or small can impede the criminal court system with the possibility of handing out wrong convictions/charges.
What Types of Conduct is Considered Perjury?
Perjury means knowingly giving a false statement. This may be spoken or written after taking an oath. As an adjunct to this general meaning, the state of Virginia has included two statutes that fall under the umbrella of ‘perjury’. These are persuading another person to provide false testimony and providing contradictory testimony on different occasions on the same matter.
What are the Perjury Laws in Virginia?
The Virginia Code Section 18.2-434, et seq. (perjury) covers perjury laws in this state. Under this statute, a person is guilty of perjury of oath for doing any of the following acts:
- Lying about any relevant matter in court after having taken the oath;
- Falsely taking an oath that another person is 18 years old or older in order to obtain a marriage license for that individual;
- Claims some written verification, declaration, or certification is true while full well knowing that this material wasn’t true.
What are the Punishments for Committing Perjury of Oath in Virginia State?
In Virginia, committing perjury is a Class 5 felony. This is punishable by 1 to a maximum of 10 years in prison. Alternatively, it is up to the judge presiding over the case to determine If a 12-month sentence with a fine of $2,500 is sufficient.
In Virginia, Class 5 Felony penalties are called ‘wobblers’. This means that the crime may be tried as a Class Felony or a Class 1 misdemeanor. This will depend on the circumstances of the case as well as the judge who is presiding. Usually, the state bases this decision as part of a plea arrangement with the offender.
Committing Perjury of Oath has two paths for sentencing. If the accused is tried as a felon, the conviction will be a maximum fine of up to $2,500 with a prison term of ten years (maximum). Since you’re being charged as a felon, you will lose several rights such as the right to be a juror in a case, the right to vote, own a firearm and even the right to run for political office. Over time, you may send a written petition to the Governor General’s office to have some of your rights restored.
If the accused is tried as a misdemeanor, the conviction will be a maximum one-year prison term with a fine of $2,500.
What are Some Defences to a Perjury of Oath Case?
You may not be charged with Perjury of Oath if the following are applicable to your case:
- You were not sworn under oath properly. If the case did not require you to take an oath or if the witness didn’t take an oath, you can argue your case as a procedural violation.
- You didn’t intend to tell a lie. Intent matters greatly in a perjury case. This is because the law wants the act to have occurred knowingly and wilfully. If you innocently made a false claim because of a mistake, memory lapse or confusion, you knowingly didn’t commit perjury.
- Your statements were not material. If you intentionally and with full knowledge make false statements after taking the oath but the statements were not affecting the case, i.e. didn’t affect the case’s outcome, then it is not perjury.