Texas Perjury Laws
Overview of Texas Perjury Laws
Committing perjury is a violation of Texas state law. One commits perjury by making a false statement (either oral or written) while under oath or when swearing to the truth of a previous false statement that was either made under oath or required to be made under oath (such as a written statement). In order to prove a case for perjury, prosecutors must prove that the defendant made the false statement with the intent to deceive and with knowledge of the statement's meaning.
Example: Bob is completing a background check form for his new government job, and he signs a statement stating that all the information in the form is true and correct to the best of his knowledge. However, Bob purposely states on the form that he graduated from college, when he knows that he did not but he wants his new employer to think that he did. This would be considered perjury because Bob intends to deceive his new employer and he knows the meaning of his statement.
A defendant may also be charged with the higher crime of aggravated perjury if the perjury committed is made in or in connection with an official proceed and the false statement is material or important to the proceeding. To determine whether a statement would be considered material to a proceeding, it is helpful to ask yourself if the statement would affect the outcome of the proceeding or the course of how it was conducted. If so, then it will likely be considered to be "material."
Example: Bob was testifying as a witness at a trial for a bank robbery and he was asked the color of the car he saw speeding off from the scene of the crime. He answered "blue" when he knew the car was red, however, Bob intentionally wanted people to think it was not red. Bob has committed aggravated perjury. This is because Bob intended to deceive the jury at the trial, he knew the meaning of the statement he was making, and it was a material statement during a trial about a very important detail of the crime.
Perjury is considered a crime against justice, since it undermines the integrity of the justice system.
Defenses to Perjury Charges
- Lack of intent to deceive
- Lack of knowledge of the statement's meaning
NOTE: It is not a defense that the oath was taken in an irregular manner or that there was some irregularity with the appointment or qualification of the person who was giving the oath.
Penalties and Sentences
Those convicted of perjury in Texas face a charge of a "Class A" misdemeanor. The punishment for a "Class A" misdemeanor is typically no more than one year in a county jail and/or a fine of not more than $4,000.
If the defendant is convicted of aggravated perjury in Texas, they may face a charge of a third degree felony. This carries a sentence of between two and ten years in a state prison and/or a fine of no more than $10,000. This is considered a very serious crime and the punishment in Texas is harsh for the falsification of a material statement in an official proceeding.
Texas Perjury Laws: Statute
Texas Perjury Statute (Penal Code, Title 8, Chapter 37)
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a Texas criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.