Maryland Federal Perjury Attorney
Federal perjury is a charge that alleges that a person has lied under oath or provided false sworn testimony during a government investigation, hearing, or proceeding. This can be alleged after a person has testified in a trial grand jury proceeding, or even in a deposition.
A person may also be charged with perjury for intentionally making material false statements in a sworn written declaration and/or other sworn written documents.
A Maryland federal perjury lawyer can work with a person who is facing these charges in a federal court in Maryland by explaining what they can expect from the process and how to prepare an aggressive defense.
Elements of Federal Perjury
In order to prove a perjury charge, the government must prove all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Each state also has its own perjury statute. The particular circumstances of where the alleged false statement was given and under what context will dictate whether a person is prosecuted for perjury under federal law or state law.
In any legal action governed by federal law, the government must be able to prove the accused took a sworn oath or legal promise to tell the truth, and purposefully and with full knowledge made a false statement, or told a lie while under oath. Perjury also requires the government prove the false statement was material. A Maryland federal perjury attorney can help if a person’s case is brought by a federal prosecutor in a federal court in Maryland.
Courts have construed the term material in the context of perjury to mean of great importance and/or about a topic which has the ability to influence or is capable of influencing an outcome. An example would be if a witness said they discussed a federal conspiracy plan over breakfast. That statement alone is material to the case, but if the witness also volunteered that during breakfast they dined on steak and eggs when they were, in fact, drinking coffee and eating pastry, these facts have no bearing on the outcome of the case, and thus would not be material in the context of perjury.
To prove that a witness knowingly and intentionally lied, prosecutors will often present materially inconsistent prior sworn or unsworn statements to show the sworn statement at issue was false. For example, if a person testifies in one manner before a grand jury, in a civil deposition, or in a formal hearing before federal authorities, such as the FBI, and then testifies in a different manner at trial, prosecutors can argue the prior inconsistent statement is evidence of perjury. The prosecutor does not have to prove which statement was true or correct, only that the accused person clearly and intentionally lied about a material fact.
Perjury is difficult to prove in many cases because the main element of the crime is one of intent. A person can only be found guilty when the government proves that the person knowingly and intentionally made false material statements while under oath. A common defense strategy will seek to prove that the accused never intended to lie and was confused, or that the accused believed all along that their statements were true at the time they were made. Some possible defenses a Maryland federal perjury attorney may employ include:
- Inaccurate Recollection of Facts: Not being able to correctly recall facts by a witness is not perjury. Witnesses who are not sure about an answer to a question are better served by saying they do not remember or do not know for sure than to hesitantly give a strong affirmative answer. It is almost impossible to mount a successful perjury prosecution against a person who allegedly lied when they, in fact, testified that they do not know or do not remember something. The prosecutor faces a heavy burden in trying to prove the accused was not mistaken or the accused indeed recalls events he or she claims not to remember
- Immaterial Testimony: A Maryland federal perjury attorney may try to prove that the testimony was immaterial and had no bearing on an important fact at issue or in the trial or proceeding. This defense can be difficult to prevail under and may only be applicable in limited and fact-specific circumstances
- Recanting False Testimony: An attorney may try and prove that the witness recanted or took back the false testimony. If, during a trial or proceeding, a witness gives false testimony and then during the same proceeding (but before the judge gives the case to the jury) corrects the false testimony on the record it is possible for a witness to avoid culpability for perjury because – technically – as long as the false testimony is corrected prior to jury deliberation, the witness no longer could be said to have the intent to deceive
Those who induce, persuade, or cause another person to commit perjury can also be prosecuted under the federal perjury statute. This charge is often called subornation of perjury. Persons who are charged with suborning perjury in a criminal trial may also be prosecuted for obstruction of justice and could also face accessory after the fact charges to the underlying crime in the case that is being prosecuted.
Generally, suborning perjury is a separate crime. Often a witness’ recantations can be used as evidence in a prosecution for subornation of perjury because when a witness testifies one way and then later recants, it tends to corroborate that the witness was probably pressured or induced to lie under oath.
Benefit of an Attorney
If you are facing federal perjury charges, you should consult with an experienced Maryland federal perjury lawyer who can help you understand these charges and prepare a defense. Though the charge is a federal offense, having an attorney who is familiar with the federal court system in Maryland will provide a person with a distinct advantage for crafting the best possible defense while also protecting their reputation and their rights.
Under federal law, prosecutors may seek an indictment for perjury when a person – after being duly sworn – is alleged to have intentionally made materially false statements in any legal proceeding. While proving that one has intentionally lied may be difficult, those who are convicted of perjury face severe penalties, including up to five years in prison and costly fines.