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New York Perjury Laws

A person commits the crime of perjury in its most basic form when an individual "swears falsely." Therefore, if you perjure yourself, you knowingly make a false or misleading statement either under oath or in a signed legal document. While people lie all the time without legal consequence, perjury is taken very seriously because trust and credibility are paramount to a fair and functioning legal system. Each state has its own perjury law, but they're relatively similar to one another.

New York Perjury Laws: Overview

In New York, 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.


New York Penal Code Article 210, et seq.

Statutory Definition of Perjury

The act of swearing falsely (or "perjury") occurs 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).

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
Types of Perjury Charges
  • Third-Degree: A person is guilty of perjury in the third degree when he swears falsely.
  • Second-Degree: A person is guilty of perjury in the second degree when he swears falsely and when his false statement is (a) made in a subscribed written instrument for which an oath is required by law, and (b) made with intent to mislead a public servant in the performance of his official functions, and (c) material to the action, proceeding or matter involved.
  • First-Degree: A person is guilty of perjury in the first degree when he swears falsely and when his false statement (a) consists of testimony, and (b) is material to the action, proceeding or matter in which it is made.
Penalties and Sentences
  • Third-Degree: Class A misdemeanor; up to 1 yr. in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000
  • Second-Degree: Class E felony; up to 4 yrs. (and at least 1 yr.) in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000
  • First-Degree: Class D felony; 3 to 7 yrs. in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000

Note: State laws are constantly changing, usually through the passage of new legislation but also through court rulings and other means. Please contact a New York criminal attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

The Meaning of 'Material' in a Perjury Case

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.

New York Perjury Laws: Related Resources

Charged Under New York Perjury Laws? Get Legal Help

It may not seem like a huge deal, but courts are dead serious when it comes to telling the truth under oath or in legal documents. Without that trust, it calls the legitimacy of such proceedings into question. If you've been charged with perjury in New York, it's a good idea to contact a local criminal defense attorney who can explain the penalties you're facing based on the specific facts of your case and the defenses available to you.

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