The crime of perjury under California Penal Code Section 118 basically requires an individual to be under oath and then to be telling a lie about a material fact. Most of the time we see perjury cases that occur in court where somebody is lying on the witness stand after being put under oath and the prosecutors are able to prove that whatever they said was not true.
But there are other circumstances where perjury can come to light – like signing some sort of a government document or signing something under penalty of perjury and then it's determined that you are not telling the truth. I've seen this happen in insurance cases where people either give a statement which is tape recorded and they're caught lying later or they actually sign some DMV document for example under penalty of perjury and it turns out they were lying.
Perjury is a Straight Felony Case
There are all sorts of different circumstances in Los Angeles where somebody can be charged with perjury. The problem with perjury is that it's a straight felony, and a lot of times it's such a serious crime that the prosecutors and judge want to put you in custody in order to punish you and teach you a lesson to make sure it doesn't happen again.
So, if you've got a perjury charge pending in Los Angeles pursuant to Penal Code Section 118, your best strategy is to hire an attorney who has handled these types of cases before, so you can discuss exactly what can be done damage control-wise.
Sometimes in a perjury case, you actually have a defense and you can say, no I'm not lying, it's the truth. If you can prove that whatever you said was truthful or it's unclear whether you were lying just based on the circumstances of what was said and what evidence they have to prove that it's not truthful, then you can certainly mount a defense for a perjury charge.
But a lot of times what you're trying to do is damage control, meaning trying to show that listen – you have one version prosecutors and police – let me tell you what the other version is. Here's what's going on. It's not everything that meets the eye. There's a lot of things going on surrounding this supposed perjured either statement or representation by way of signing something under penalty of perjury.
Best Defense Strategy Against Perjury Charges
So, your best strategy when you have a perjury case is to have an attorney who has all the details and facts. So, obviously, when you meet with somebody, you want to make sure you give them all the information.
Don't omit anything, don't put a spin on things. So, that way when they negotiate with the prosecutors and judge related to your future, your freedom, your reputation, they are able to give an accurate account of what happened and kind of give your side of the story because a lot of times the truth lies somewhere in the middle and the prosecutors and police have only looked at it from one side and haven't really obtained all the information that's available out there.
That's where your attorney comes in and will attempt to give them the information that's available, turn the tie and put you in a better position so that you can get out of the criminal justice system as fast as possible.
Penalties For Perjury Under Penal Code 118
Typically, as I indicated above, perjury is a straight felony, so you could be facing prison time in Los Angeles, or the court can give you probation. If you get probation, you can get anywhere from no time in jail, up to one year in the county jail.
Obviously, if you're going to get custody time, doing the time in the county jail is usually better, because you're going to get out faster. Most of the prison sentences are a little bit longer, whereas county jail in Los Angeles especially, is so overcrowded that a lot of times you can get out of there relatively quickly on a sentence and just be on probation having to report to a probation officer.
So, really what you need to do, and what I try to do when I meet with clients, is figure out exactly what you are realistically facing based on the charges. The prosecutor and judge are going to look at what you did, what type of damage what you did was caused, and they're also going to look at your criminal record, who the victim was, and the impact of the perjured statement was to the victim.
If it's something in court, obviously lying in court is never a good idea because they take this very seriously and they want people to have respect for the judicial system and lying under penalty of perjury is obviously a huge lack of respect, and so they will punish that type of behavior severely.
So, get in front of a criminal defense lawyer who is experienced, been down this road before, give him all the details and then let him help you figure out what your best course of action is, what your best strategy is to put you in the best position.