Most people are aware of the crime of perjury and could probably define it as lying under oath in a court proceeding. However, the legal definition of perjury is stricter and more complicated than the definition would suggest. The ways that perjury is identified, prosecuted and punished vary and are based upon the exact circumstances of the case. Here is a general outline of the perjury laws in Florida.
According to Florida Statute under Chapter 837, perjury occurs whenever someone appears in a proceeding where they are making an oath to speak the truth but instead make a false statement which they had reason to know was not true.
In a perjury case, much depends upon the nature of the proceedings under which the alleged perjury occurred. If it was an official proceeding conducted by a government agency, such as before a court, a legislative hearing, a notary or other official administrative branch of government, then the perjury is defined as having occurred at an official proceeding. Whether perjury is committed at an official or unofficial proceeding has a major impact on the potential penalties involved.
The relevance of the testimony, the degree of intent to deceive and the nature of the proceedings all have an impact on the extent of the charges. Perjury committed in an unofficial proceeding is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, a year’s probation, a $1,000 fine or any combination thereof. The penalties for perjury in an official proceeding are five times more severe, with up to five years in prison, five years probation and $5,000 in fines. There is a third category if perjury occurs during an “official capital prosecution proceeding.” Because of the severe nature of the possible injustice done by false testimony in a capital case such as murder, the penalties for this form of perjury increase to up to 15 years in prison, 15 years probation and $10,000 in fines.
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