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Perjury

Perjury is knowingly lying after taking an oath to tell the truth.  Perjury can be seen as lying while testifying in court, and can also be lying while communicating through certain legal documents.  Usually the lie must be material to the matter at issue, although perjury can also be committed simply by signing a legal document with the knowledge that it contains false assertions.

The elements of perjury are 1) an oath 2) an intent 3) falsity and 4) materiality.  The oath does not have to be of a particular form, but it must be administered by a person or body legally authorized to do so.  The intent element requires the false testimony was knowingly stated by the defendant.  Intent can be satisfied by proving that the defendant knew his testimony was false.  The element of falsity simply means that the defendant made one or more false statements.  The materiality element requires that the statement in question be of the sort that would influence the proceeding one way or another.

The word ‘knowingly’ means that the statement made wasn’t a mistake or accident, and the defendant did not act in ignorance.  It is necessary to prove that the defendant knew what he was saying. 

The element of falsity can be proven by a person witnessing the false testimony, or through a transcript in the case of a grand jury.  In the case of a signing of a letter, falsity can also be proven through circumstantial evidence.

The consequences of being convicted of perjury can include imprisonment, and/or fines.

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