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New York Perjury Laws

Overview of New York Perjury Laws

A person commits the crime of perjury in its most basic form when he or she "swears falsely." Section 210 of the New York Penal Code defines the act of swearing falsely as occurring when a person makes a false statement which he or she does not believe to be true while either giving testimony or under oath in a subscribed written instrument (such as an affidavit or deposition). The seriousness of a perjury offense may increase depending on such factors as the materiality of the statement to the action, proceeding or matter involved; the setting where the statement is made; and whether the law required that such statement be made under oath.

Perjury is elevated to a second-degree offense when a person makes a false statement in a subscribed written instrument for which an oath is required by law - and the statement is both material to the action and made with intent to mislead a public servant in the performance of his official functions. A person is guilty of first-degree perjury when his or her false statement consists of testimony - an oral statement made under oath in a proceeding before any court, body, agency, public servant, or other person authorized by law to conduct such proceeding and administer the oath - and is material to the action in which it is made.

A statement "material" to a particular action or proceeding is one that could tend to affect the resolution of an issue therein. The materiality of a statement is a question of fact for a jury to decide.

Defenses to Perjury Charges

  • Truthfulness of statement
  • Retraction of statement
  • Perjury "trap" (prosecutor's manner and method of questioning the witness evidences attempt to "trap" witness into committing perjury rather than to ascertain relevant facts)
  • Mistaken belief of fact

The following are NOT defenses to perjury pursuant to Section 210.30 of the Penal Code:

  • Defendant's lack of competence to make the false statement
  • Defendant's mistaken belief in the fact's immateriality
  • Irregular administration of oath or defective authority or jurisdiction of attesting officer where such defect is excusable under any statute or rule of law

Penalties and Sentences

Perjury offenses run the gamut from class A misdemeanor (third-degree) to class D felony (first-degree) offenses. A person convicted of the least serious level of the offense, third-degree perjury, will be subject to a sentence of up to 1 year in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Conviction for first-degree perjury will result in a sentence including imprisonment for 3 to 7 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

New York Perjury Statute

Perjury and Related Offenses
Penal Code Article 210

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

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