What often comes to mind when people hear the word “perjury” is someone lying under oath while on the witness stand in a courtroom. But lying under oath is just one form of perjury.
South Carolina’s code identifies two types of perjury:
- 1. Intentionally providing false or misleading information in court after taking an oath or affirmation to tell the truth
- 2. Intentionally providing false or incomplete information on forms or documents required by the government or its agencies
The law considers perjury a “crime against justice,” similar to charges like contempt of court. That’s because America’s Founding Fathers built our criminal justice system on the foundation of trust. And when people break that trust, justice cannot be served.
Here are some examples of what perjury could look like:
- On a sworn statement of income, you intentionally omit your annual bonus in order to avoid paying additional child support. You sign the statement under penalty of perjury and send the document to family court.
- In an attempt to claim workers’ compensation, you fake a shoulder injury, then sign and submit the documentation.
- While testifying under oath, you provide a false alibi for an individual on trial.
Although each scenario is different, they all show various ways a perjury charge could come. In each scenario, you could face felony charges if law enforcement discovers your lies.
If you find yourself in a similar situation and the State charges you with perjury, the first thing you should do is hire a criminal defense lawyer. An experienced defense attorney will do everything in his or her power to help you avoid a prison sentence.
The second thing you should do is educate yourself about perjury laws so you will know how to prepare for your conversation with your defense lawyer. Below are some common questions about perjury in South Carolina to get you started.
1. What is a synonym for perjury?
Lying is the simplest synonym for perjury.
2. Is perjury a crime?
Yes, perjury is most definitely a crime. Consider this: you give your word that you are providing truthful information, either by swearing in court or signing your name to a document. If you knowingly provide incorrect information, then you are breaking your word and breaking the law.
3. What is a perjury charge?
Perjury is a criminal offense that includes lying under oath or on a document required by the state of South Carolina.
Keep in mind that perjury is not just illegal in South Carolina, but in all states and at the federal level. If a person commits perjury in federal court, he or she is breaking federal law.
4. What constitutes perjury?
Perjury is committed if you provide of false, misleading or incomplete statements either through speech or written in legal documents.
In addition to the lie itself, perjury requires intentionality on the part of the person who lied. In other words, a person must knowingly have lied to have committed perjury.
5. Can I be charged with perjury if I made a mistake and gave wrong information?
No. You must have given false information intentionally to commit perjury. If you made an honest mistake, then you should not be charged with perjury.
6. How do you prove perjury?
The prosecutor prosecuting a case must prove perjury the same way he or she has to prove other criminal charges—with evidence that the accused individual’s conduct and intent broke the law.
In perjury cases, the prosecutor has to provide proof that the defendant lied on purpose. Examples of possible evidence include:
7. Can you be charged with perjury if you get someone else to lie?
Yes. Even if you do not lie yourself, convincing someone else to lie under oath is still a criminal offense. If you do that, you may end up facing perjury charges, especially because the person you persuaded to lie might turn you in.
8. Can you only be charged with perjury if you lie at trial?
No, lying at trial is not the only way to be accused of perjury. You can also be charged anytime you lie in court while under oath. Remember, the law considers you to be under oath in several situations, including:
- Grand jury hearings
- Pre-trial hearings
- Criminal cases
- Civil cases
9. Can you only be charged with perjury if you lie on court documents?
No. Providing false information on any documents required by the State of South Carolina is also perjury. That includes:
- Bail bonds
- College applications
- DMV forms
- Jury forms
- Sworn statements
- Tax returns
10. Is perjury a misdemeanor or felony?
Perjury can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on where an individual gave false information. Perjury in court is a felony while perjury on a document is a misdemeanor.
11. What is the penalty for perjury?
The sentence for perjury varies based on where the perjury happened—in court or a legal document.
For example, if you knowingly leave out relevant information from a statement you made at the sheriff’s office, you are committing perjury in a document.
On the other hand, if you tell a lie in front of a grand jury in a superior court, then you are committing perjury in court.
Besides the circumstances of the perjury, judicial discretion also plays a part in the penalty. Judicial discretion means the judge has the power to make decisions without having to strictly follow past precedent or rules.
In perjury cases, the judge can consider the impact of the lie to decide how harsh the penalties should be. For instance, suppose your lie landed an innocent person with a sentence of life in prison. That would be terrible, and your sentence might be harsher as a result.
The specific penalties for perjury are:
|Location of Perjury||Classification||Jail Time||Fine|
|In court||Felony||Not more than five years||Amount set by the court’s discretion|
|In documents||Misdemeanor||Not more than six months||At least $100|
12. What is the statute of limitations for perjury?
There is not a statute of limitations for perjury in South Carolina. This means law enforcement can bring charges against you at any time, regardless of how much time has passed since you committed perjury.
13. Who can be charged with perjury?
Anyone who testifies and gets caught in a lie can face perjury charges. That includes:
- Law enforcement officers
- Police officers
If you believe the State has wrongly charged you with perjury, a lawyer can take your case to the court of appeals to try to get your charges dropped.
Charged with perjury? Let us fight for your rights.
Whether you committed perjury in a criminal case, a civil case, or on a legal document you could be punished with more than just a few months in county jail.
If the court finds you guilty of perjury, your integrity as an honest person will be questioned for the rest of your life by employers, creditors and anyone else who can run a background check to see your criminal record.
You do not have to face that uncertain future alone. An experienced lawyer can stand by your side. You need someone in your corner looking out for your best interests.
Coastal Law has experienced criminal defense attorneys who can help you fight your case. Contact us to discuss the details of your charges with a lawyer who cares. Call (843) 488-5000 or fill out our online form.