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Pennsylvania Perjury Laws

Overview of Pennsylvania Perjury Laws

Perjury is a crime in Pennsylvania. Perjury occurs when in an official proceeding, a person makes a false statement under oath or swears to the truth of some statement previously made when that person knows or believes it is not true and that statement can affect the outcome of the proceeding. In the event that the person retracts their perjured statement before it affects the outcome of the proceeding taking place, then that person may not be charged with perjury.

Additional details about Pennsylvania's perjury law can be found in the chart below.

Statute Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18, Section 4901, et seq.
Statutory Definition of Perjury A person is guilty of perjury, a felony of the third degree, if in any official proceeding he makes a false statement under oath or equivalent affirmation, or swears or affirms the truth of a statement previously made, when the statement is material and he does not believe it to be true.
Crime Classification 2nd degree misdemeanor
Penalties Fine of at least $1,000

Defenses to Perjury Charges

There are a few defenses to a perjury charge in Pennsylvania. The following are the most common defenses used, although there may be others. NOTE: It is not a defense that the defendant thought the statement would not affect the outcome of the proceeding.

Mistake of fact

Mistake of fact is just like it sounds. If you are mistaken about something, but you believe that your statement is true, you have not committed perjury. However, mistake of fact is different than merely making a false statement. If you do not know the answer to a question under oath, but you make a guess at what you think the answer may be, you may have committed perjury.


Using intoxication as a defense to perjury can be as simple as mistake of fact. If you were intoxicated when you gave an answer or statement under oath, it is possible that a court will not hold you accountable for those statements. However, making a statement under oath while intoxicated can be extremely rare. It is unlikely that a court will allow you to give a statement or testify in court if you are intoxicated.


Entrapment isn't as common as the movies make it seem. Entrapment happens when a government agent encourages or induces you to do something illegal. In the context of perjury, this means that a police officer or prosecutor encourages a witness to lie about the facts of a case.

Lack of knowledge of statement's meaning

You have not committed perjury if you answered a question that you didn't understand, or gave an answer or statement using language that you were not familiar with.

Penalties and Sentences

Perjury is a crime constituting a third degree felony. This is punishable by up to seven years in prison. In addition, under Pennsylvania law, a judge may impose a fine in addition to or instead of the prison sentence at his or her discretion depending on the circumstances of the case.

Facing Perjury Charges? An Attorney Can Help

Lying under oath can be a serious crime and the defenses can be complex, which means that you may need a good attorney to help defend you if you believe you may be charged with perjury, or if you've already been charged. Find out more today by meeting with a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney near you.

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