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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.

Perjury and Aggravated Perjury Under Texas Law

The following examples illustrate the similar charges of perjury and aggravated perjury, which differ in severity:

Perjury: 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.

Aggravated Perjury: 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.

Texas Perjury Laws: Overview

Statute Texas Penal Code § 37.01, et seq.
Statutory Definition of Perjury

A person commits perjury if, with intent to deceive and with knowledge of the statement's meaning:

  1. He makes a false statement under oath or swears to the truth of a false statement previously made and the statement is required or authorized by law to be made under oath; or
  2. He makes a false unsworn declaration under Chapter 132, Civil Practice and Remedies Code.

A person commits aggravated perjury if he commits perjury (as defined above) and the false statement:

  1. Is made during or in connection with an official proceeding; and
  2. Is material (A statement is material, regardless of the admissibility of the statement under the rules of evidence, if it could have affected the course or outcome of the official proceeding).
Classification of the Crime
  • Class A misdemeanor
  • Third degree felony for aggravated perjury
Sentences and Penalties
  • Class A misdemeanor: Up to 1 year in county jail, fine of up to $4,000.
  • Third degree felony: 2 to 10 years in state prison, fine of up to $10,000.
Defenses
  • Lack of intent to deceive
  • Lack of knowledge of the statement's meaning
  • Mistake
  • Entrapment

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.

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.

Related Resources

Get a Free Legal Review of Your Texas Perjury Case

Perjury is a serious crime in any jurisdiction, since it has the effect of undermining the very integrity of the criminal justice system. But the "materiality" of the perjury is what determines just how serious a charge it warrants. If you have been charged with perjury in Texas, you will want legal representation. Get a head start on your case with a free and confidential case evaluation by a Texas criminal defense lawyer.

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