What is perjury?
According to federal statute, perjury occurs when a person in court under oath knowingly makes a false declaration which is material to the issue in question. To determine whether one is guilty of perjury, the statute is commonly broken down into the following seven elements: (1) under oath; (2) before a competent tribunal, officer, or person; (3) oath authorized by United States law; (4) intent; (5) states, subscribes to, or uses false information; (6) materiality; and (7) falsity.
Let us more closely examine each element, all of which must be prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order for a conviction of perjury to occur. First, for a statement to be under oath, no particular formality is required. It must merely be demonstrated by some “unequivocal act” that the person was aware that he was under oath. Second, a competent tribunal encompasses all courts and grand juries, as well as other tribunals like administrative hearings. Usually the question regarding this element involves the jurisdiction of the court. Third, the oath must be authorized by United States law. If a tribunal other than a court or grand jury requires an unauthorized oath, the oath is inconsequential. Fourth, a proof of willfulness is required. The person must know the statement to be false and intend to use it to influence the outcome of a trial. Fifth, the person must state, subscribe to, make, or use the information. This language is to ensure coverage for acts including presentation, authentication, and testimonial reliance. Sixth, the information must be material to the issue before the court. This is to say that the statement, if true, would have aided the inquiry. Finally, the information must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt to be false. Statements can be misleading although they are literally true.
As you might can tell, “lying under oath” is often a much more difficult crime to prove than it sounds.
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