Federal Perjury Charges and Punishments

What is perjury? The definition of perjury is a false statement, given under oath, that is intended to mislead a court.  This statement can be given orally, such as by a testifying witness, or in writing.  Federal perjury offenses are governed by 18 U.S.C. §§ 1621, 1622, and 1623. Collectively, these statutes make it a crime to testify falsely before a court, other tribunal, or a grand jury, or to persuade other individuals to commit perjury (suborning perjury).

The Legal Requirements and Defenses to Perjury Charges

When facing perjury allegations, the details and circumstances of the alleged offense are of paramount importance. For example, if the false statements were not made under oath, then there can be no perjury conviction. Additionally, the prosecutor needs to prove that the false statements were “material,” that is, capable of influencing the factfinder to whom the statements were made. Finally, the perjury statutes have subtle but important differences that should be considered when evaluating the merits of a perjury case and presenting your case in court.  As with any serious federal white collar offense, it is critical to obtain the counsel of an experienced white collar crimes attorney to represent you and protect your rights when facing these charges.  If you are being subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury or in federal trial proceedings, a knowledgeable federal perjury lawyer can also help you to avoid these charges by advising you regarding your rights and legal obligations when testifying under oath.

What is the Typical Punishment for Perjury?

Perjury is a felony.  As such, it has serous consequences.  Under the federal sentencing guidelines, the advisory sentencing range started out at 15-21 months, and that is for a person with minimal or no prior criminal history.  If the perjury resulted in substantial interference with the administration of justice, the sentencing range goes up.  The sentencing guidelines also cover subornation of perjury.  The recommended punishment gets much higher if the perjury is caused through threats or actual harm to a witness or their property.

Keep in mind that sentencing guidelines on perjury are advisory, and the judge may go above or below the guidelines.  Skilled advocacy can make a big difference in the ultimate outcome.