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Will I Go to Jail If Charged with Perjury?

California Penal Code 118 PC describes the straight felony crime of perjury as knowingly giving false information while under oath.

In other words, someone commits perjury when they take an oath to testify before a tribunal where an oath is applicable, and then deliberately lies or provides false information.

A few examples where someone could be charged with PC 118 perjury include the following:

  • knowingly lie on witness stand at a criminal jury trial,
  • deliberately failing to correctly identify a suspect,
  • falsely identifying a suspect on purpose,
  • signing an affidavit when you know it has false information.

You could also face perjury charges if you falsely fill out an application for a California driver's license on purpose.

As you can see, perjury charges require that the defendant intentionally lies or provides misleading testimony while knowing exactly what they were doing.

For more information, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys are providing an outline below.

Definition of PC 118 Perjury

The criminal offense of California Penal Code 118 PC perjury in California is defined as follows:

  • “any person who, having taken an oath to testify before any tribunal, officer, or person, in which the oath can by law of the State of California be administered, willfully states as true any material matter they know to be false is guilty of the crime perjury.”

What does “material matter” mean?

Will I Go to Jail If Charged with Perjury in California?

A prosecutor has to show that a defendant who was accused of perjury gave false material matter. A statement can be considered “material” if:

  • the court actually used the statement affecting the outcome, or
  • the statement could have potentially influenced the outcome.

In spite of what happened in the proceeding, the crime of perjury occurs when someone knowingly gives false information that has the potential to impact the outcome of the case.

What are the “elements of the crime” 

The factors a prosecutor must prove for a conviction are known as the “elements of the crime.” For perjury (CALCRIM 2640) these include:

  • defendant took an oath to testify truthfully,
  • defendant knowingly gave information they knew was false,
  • defendant made false statement while under oath,
  • defendant had intent to falsely testify,
  • the false information given was material matter.

You can be charged with PC 118 perjury if you gave false information while testifying in court, being deposed, or signing an affidavit.

What are the related California crimes? 

Penal Code 118 perjury has several California statues that are related, including;

  • Penal Code 115 PC – file false documents,
  • Penal Code 118.1 PC – file false police report,
  • Penal Code 127 PC – subornation of perjury,
  • Penal Code 132 PC – offer false evidence,
  • Penal Code 134 PC – prepare false evidence,
  • Penal Code 470 PC – forgery.

Penalties for a California Perjury Conviction

Perjury is considered a crime involving moral turpitude, meaning a conviction normally carries harsh penalties.

Penalties for a California Perjury Conviction

PC 115 perjury in California is a felony offense punishable by the following:

  • up to four years in jail,
  • a fine up to $10,000,
  • formal felony probation.

However, a judge could grant a defendant probation in lieu of jail time in certain circumstances.

If probation is granted, it would typically include 3 years of remedial activates such as counseling, community service, and court fines.

Further, a felony conviction means you will lose your right to own or possess a firearm.

Perjury Charges for Lying on Documentation

Perjury can come up under many different circumstances. Somebody could be on the witness stand and lie under penalty of perjury and the prosecutors can then prosecute them for that.  I rarely ever see that, although it certainly happens sometimes.

I would say probably the most likely form of perjury is somebody lying on some documentation, such as filling out documentation under penalty of perjury.

I've seen people in depositions get caught perjuring themselves, talking to insurance company and perjuring themselves.  There's a whole host of different ways that this particular crime can come up.

It's covered by Penal Code Section 118.  Basically, you have to be making some sort of a statement under oath in order to be prosecuted for perjury in Los Angeles County.

Chances of Receiving Jail Time for Perjury

I would say there is a better than 50% possibility if you're charged with perjury, they're going to try to send you to jail or prison.  The reason for that is just how serious judges and prosecutors take lying under oath.

You're probably most likely to go to prison if you're charged with a federal crime and perjury is one of the offenses because the federal authorities tend to be much more successful in getting people in federal prison and serving an 85% sentence.

When you raise your hand, swear to tell the truth and then you lie, that strikes at the very fabric our legal system.  Prosecutors do not like that.  Judges like to hammer people in sentencing when they're perjuring themselves.

If on the other hand, there are perjury cases that come up under a less serious type situation which I've seen a lot.

Basically, the prosecutors are sometimes trying to torture certain facts into a perjury case so they can really get the judge to throw the book at you.

That's a different situation, and obviously, your defense attorney is going to do everything they can to avoid a jail or prison sentence under those circumstances, which is to differentiate your perjury case from other perjury cases that might warrant a harsher, severe sentence.

When it comes to white collar crimes in Los Angeles and perjury charges, I usually see groupings of charges filed in addition to the perjury.

When people are filling out documents, with the FCC for example, or other government agencies, lying under oath, making statements to authorities under oath — all sorts of different things can trigger this perjury prosecution.

You don't see it a lot, but when you do see it, it's usually serious, and it's usually related to some sort of white collar fraud type situation.

Criminal Defense for Perjury Charges

So, if you or a loved one is charged with perjury and you're concerned that you're going to get a jail or prison sentence, pick up the phone.

Ask to speak to Ron Hedding. I've been doing this for almost three decades:

Criminal Defense for California Perjury Charges
  • I know how to handle these cases;
  • I know when a person is likely to go to jail;
  • I know when we can come up with either a defense or a mitigation strategy to keep you out of jail or prison.

If you're charged with perjury at the state level, you have a much higher probability to stay out of jail or prison, especially with a great criminal defense attorney by your side. Some common defenses for perjury include:

  • There was no intentional lie;
  • There was no material matter;
  • You were not under oath.

Another unique thing about perjury, Penal Code Section 118, and any other related white collar offenses, is that perjury is a straight felony.

What that means, there's no such thing as misdemeanor perjury.  So, if you get convicted of perjury, you will have a felony on your record for the rest of your life unless and until you can file a motion to get it dismissed, but it will still come up because in California there's no such thing as a true expungement.

So, you really are fighting a battle when you're charged with perjury.  That's why you need to get the best warrior by your side — somebody who's been down the road you're about the travel, had success, knows the moves to make and knows how to get you the best outcome.

Pick up the phone now.  Set up the meeting.  I stand at the ready to help you. Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm located at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436.