Under federal law, certain material statements and facts that interfere with prosecuting crimes and the administration of justice are illegal. These situations are extremely fact-specific, and proving Washington DC federal perjury cases is rarely a simple task.
Nonetheless, conviction under federal perjury statutes can have serious consequences that include sentences in federal prison. If you are accused of perjury under federal law, you may want to consult a skilled perjury lawyer for advice before you take any other steps.
Federal perjury charges can occur under three main federal statutes. These statutes cover false oral and written statements made under oath or under the penalties of perjury in a variety of situations, including testimony in federal courts, statements made in depositions relating to federal cases, and statements made to federal law enforcement officers in a criminal investigation. All these statutes are slightly different, and, as a result, require varying elements of proof.
18 U.S. Code §1001 makes it illegal to willfully and knowingly falsify or conceal a material fact or to make a materially false or fraudulent statement or document. These actions must occur with respect to any proceeding within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the federal government.
To obtain a conviction, the government must prove that the individuals knew or simply chose not to know that they made statements they knew were not true. More specifically, the intent of these individuals to making the false statements must have been to deceive.
The false statements or documents also must affect a material portion of the proceedings. In other words, the information in the statements—whether written or spoken—must be important and relevant enough to influence the opinion of a decision-making person or entity.
Finally, violation of this section must involve one or more of the following actions:
• Falsifying or concealing a material matter when individuals owe a duty or obligation not to conceal
• Materially making a false or fraudulent statement or representation
• Making or using a document containing a materially false statement or representation
Individuals perjure themselves under 18 U.S.C. §1621 when they willfully testify—in person or in writing, and under oath as authorized by federal law—before a tribunal, officer, or person to a material matter that they believe is not true. Perjury also occurs under this statute when individuals declare or state under penalty of perjury a material matter that they believe is not true.
This statute covers circumstances in which a formal oath is not required. In either case, there must be a deliberate attempt by the individuals to deceive others by using the false information.
Again, the subject of the falsification must be material to the matter, or so significant that it is capable of influencing a decisionmaker. This criterion applies even if the decisionmaker did not believe the defendant and was not influenced by the matter.
This statute also requires what is known in common law as the “two-witness rule.” In order to prove the falsity of a sworn statement, the government must either produce two independent witnesses or one witness and corroborating circumstances to attest to the falsity of the statement.
One other commonly cited perjury statute is 18 U.S.C. §1623. This statute addresses perjury, or willfully false statements made under oath or penalties of perjury, in federal courts and grand juries.
Under this statute, the standard of proof is often easier for the government to fulfill. There is no “two-witness rule” required, and the government is not required to prove the falsity of a statement in order to support a perjury charge. Rather, it is sufficient to provide evidence of two inconsistent declarations, which leads to the conclusion that one of the statements is false.
Federal perjury charges have serious repercussions and often accompany other federal charges relating to the fair administration of the justice system and the government, including obstruction of justice and related crimes. All too often, your conduct can provide investigators with the proof that they need to convict you of perjury. Therefore, consider consulting an experienced federal perjury defense attorney before you potentially put your future at risk.