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Why is perjury a crime?

The justice system relies on truthful testimony in both criminal and civil cases. That includes verbal as well as written information provided by witnesses and others involved in a legal matter. Witnesses who testify in trials and depositions swear to tell the truth before they are questioned. When people complete and/or sign various types of legal documents, including their tax returns, they stipulate that the information they're providing is accurate to the best of their knowledge.

What keeps this system working are the potential legal consequences for committing perjury. That involves knowingly stating something under oath or in a sworn affidavit that is misleading or false. The consequences for perjuring yourself can be severe.

To prove perjury, prosecutors must have evidence that contradicts the sworn statement(s). They must also prove that a person intentionally provided false information. If you are testifying in a robbery case where you were a witness, for example, and you unintentionally get some of the details wrong, that's not perjury. If, however, you give a false description of a perpetrator to get someone else off the hook, that's perjury.

People who are accused of perjury can face state as well as federal charges. They may be required to pay fines or even spend time in prison. Some people, for example, law enforcement officers, can lose their jobs if they're convicted of perjury.

If you or a loved one is facing perjury charges, it's essential to see legal guidance so that you can present your case and seek to mitigate the negative consequences. Experienced Maryland criminal defense attorneys can help.

Source: FindLaw, "Perjury," accessed Jan. 23, 2018

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