As the capital of the United States, Washington D.C. is often viewed cynically as a place of corruption, teeming with liars. Being dishonest is always viewed negatively, but depending on the circumstances, it can also cross the line into criminal territory.
One of the most common laws addressing lying is perjury, which involves making false statements or lying under oath. Perjury is a crime against justice that punishes perpetrators harshly because the offense corrupts one of the main functions of the legal system -- to reveal the truth. If you're charged with perjury in D.C., then you could face fines of up to $5,000, imprisonment for up to 10 years, or both.
A Guide to the District of Columbia's Perjury Laws
Understanding the true meaning in a statute is a necessary but often difficult task. Getting the legal content without all the legalese usually found in statutes can help to better understand the law and save you time in the process. The chart below is such an example. Read on for a concise guide to the District of Columbia's perjury laws.
District of Columbia Division IV. Title 22:
Elements and Penalties -Perjury and Subornation of Perjury
An individual commits perjury if all of the following elements apply:
- The individual testified under oath or affirmation;
- The oath or affirmation was taken before a competent person or tribunal;
- The oath taking or affirmation was been authorized by law;
- The individual made statements that were "material" (likely to prove or disprove important facts);
- The statements were false; and
- The individual knew or believed that the statements were false when they were made.
Penalty: A fine not to exceed $5,000, imprisonment for up to 10 years, or both.
Subornation of Perjury
An individual commits subornation of perjury if they willfully convince another person to commit perjury.
Penalty: Up to 10 years imprisonment.
Elements and Penalties - False Swearing and False Statements
An individual commits false swearing if all of the following elements apply:
- Under oath or affirmation, an individual willfully makes a false statement in writing;
- The statement is material; and
- The statement is one which is required by law to be sworn or affirmed by a notary public.
Penalty: Imprisonment of up to 3 years.
An individual commits false statements if the following elements apply:
- The individual willfully makes a false statement in writing;
- The statement is material;
- The statement is made to any instrumentality of the District of Columbia government;
- The statement was made under circumstances where it could reasonably be expected to be relied on as true; and
- The writing indicates that the making of a false statement is punishable by criminal penalty, or the individual makes an affirmation by signing a declaration knowing that the facts aren't true.
Penalty: Fines up to $1,000, imprisonment for not more than 180 days, or both.
The Two-Witness Rule
The uncorroborated oath of one witness is not enough to establish that the accused's statement is false; there must be at least two witnesses to show the falsity of the statement.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
District of Columbia Perjury Laws: Related Resources
Got Questions About Perjury in D.C.? Get Answers from an Attorney
Although violating the District of Columbia's perjury laws is a major crime, proving perjury can be challenging for prosecutors. Whether your charges stem from a misunderstanding, faulty memory, or other factor, you can work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to put up a strong and persuasive defense.