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Florida Perjury Laws

Overview of Florida Perjury Laws

The offense of perjury, more commonly known as lying under oath, prohibits false statements made during legal proceedings. Florida state laws distinguish between perjury offenses committed during official proceedings and those that happen outside of official proceedings.

Florida defines an "official proceeding" as any proceeding taking place in front of a judge, magistrate, or another person who can take an individual's testimony or deposition, through a government agency, court, administrative agency, or legislative body. Examples of non-official proceedings include statements made on a marriage license application and statements made during an insurance company's routine questions in response to a claim.

To establish perjury, regardless of whether the offense occurred in an official proceeding, the prosecutor must show that the defendant took an oath to tell the truth. The oath must reflect the taker's understanding that he must speak truthfully.

In addition, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant knowingly presented a false statement as a truthful statement. If the defendant believed that the statement was truthful, the state may be unable to establish the elements of perjury.

Although some states include materiality requirements in their perjury laws, Florida is not one of those states. The prosecutor does not need to establish the materiality of the defendant's false statement in order to present the elements of perjury.

Defenses to Perjury Charges

  • Recantation: The defendant can use recantation as a defense if the defendant acknowledged the false statement during the same legal proceeding or continuous legal matter. The false statement cannot have already affected the legal proceeding in a substantial way and the defendant must admit to the false statement before any other party identifies the perjury.
  • Duress: The defendant must show that she committed perjury due to threat or coercion. To prove duress, the defendant must show an immediate or impending fear, or otherwise prove that she had reasonable grounds to fear the consequences of not making the false statement.

Note: The truth of the statement does not excuse a defendant from a perjury charge -- as long as the defendant believed that he was offering a false statement, Florida law permits the state to prosecute the defendant for perjury.

Penalties and Sentences

The potential punishment for a perjury conviction depends on whether the defendant committed the offense in an official proceeding or while not in an official proceeding.

When perjury occurred while not part of an official proceeding, Florida state laws specify a first degree misdemeanor charge, which can result in a term of imprisonment for up to one year, a fine in an amount up to $1,000, or both.

For perjury occurring as part of an official proceeding, state laws permit the prosecutor to pursue a third degree felony charge. Upon conviction, the defendant may receive a sentence of imprisonment for up to five years, a fine in an amount up to $5,000, or both.
If the defendant committed perjury during legal proceedings for a capital felony -- for which a conviction results in the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole -- Florida laws require prosecution of the offense as a second degree felony, which can result in a sentence of imprisonment for up to fifteen years, a fine in an amount up to $10,000, or both.

Florida Perjury Statute

Florida Statutes Sections 837.011-837.07

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a Florida criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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