Review of the Crime of PC 118 Perjury in California
California Penal Code 118 PC describes perjury as knowingly providing false testimony while under oath, which is a felony offense punishable by up to four years in jail.
According to the language in this statute, a person commits perjury if they take an oath that they will testify before a competent tribunal, person, or officer, in any case where that oath is applicable, and then knowingly lie or provide false information.
An oath is described as an affirmation or other method that is authorized by law to affirm the truth of a statement.
PC 118 perjury laws apply to testimony in a courtroom or during a civil deposition, statements made in a sworn affidavit and declaration, and facts that are submitted in a driver's license application.
It should be noted, however, in order for a prosecutor to obtain a conviction, there are several factors that must be proven beyond any reasonable doubt.
Since perjury may render inadmissible or unusable critical testimony in a trial, the state of California takes all cases of perjury very seriously.
Examples of perjury in action
Common examples of a perjury offense may include:
- deliberately lying about the specifics of a crime at trial;
- falsely identifying a suspect on purpose;
- knowingly failing to correctly identify a suspect;
- signing an affidavit - knowingly - in which there is false information;
- giving false information in a signed certificate or declaration;
- willingly filling out a California driver's license application falsely.
In these cases, the common thread is that the person committing perjury delivers false or misleading testimony while knowing what they're doing.
If you or a loved one stands accused of perjury, one possible line of defense may involve throwing doubt on that element.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing a detailed review below.
What is the Definition of PC 118 Perjury?
The definition of perjury is listed in California Penal Code 118 PC as:
- “anyone who, having taken an oath they will testify before any competent tribunal, officer, or person, in which the oath may by law of the State of California be administered, willfully states as true any material matter they know to be false is guilty of perjury.”
Importantly, under California law, a prosecutor must demonstrate that a person accused of perjury provides false and material matter to receive a conviction.
In California, a statement may be ‘material' if the:
- court uses statement in order to affect the outcome of a proceeding, or
- statement could have had the potential to influence the outcome of a proceeding
Regardless of what actually happens in a proceeding, a person commits perjury if their willingly given and false information could influence the outcome.
Elements of the crime
In order for the prosecutor to obtain a conviction, they must be able to prove all the elements of the crime (CALCRIM 2640) beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant:
- took an oath to truthfully testify,
- willingly stated information was true when they knew it was false,
- knew they were making a statement while under oath,
- had intent to falsely testify when making statement,
- information given was material matter,
Anyone can be charged with PC 118 perjury if they give false information when testifying in court, when being deposed, or signing an affidavit, declaration, or certificate.
Penalties for Perjury in California Courts
California considers perjury to be a crime involving moral turpitude. This means that when a person receives a perjury conviction, the associated penalties tend to be severe.
In California, perjury is a felony offense. Offenders may face punishments including:
- a fine up to $10,000, and/or,
- jail time, up to four years, or
- felony probation.
A judge may decide to recommend a sentence of probation instead of jail time in certain circumstances. If the court grants this sentence, the probation may consist of 3 years of remedial activities, likely including the following:
- community service,
- court fines.
However, while California does often consider crimes involving moral turpitude as the basis for the deportation of non-citizens, it's important to note that perjury is not a qualifying crime for this repercussion.
Committing and receiving a conviction for this crime will affect an offender's gun rights.
As it is a crime related to moral activity, having this crime on one's permanent record can make it difficult to pursue future employment or other long-term goals.
California Offenses Related to Perjury
Perjury is not the only illegal action that pertains to false information provided in a court of law. Related offense includes:
Penal Code 470 PC – forgery,
Penal Code 115 PC - filing false documents,
Penal Code 118.1 PC – filing false police report,
Penal Code 132 PC – offering false evidence,
Penal Code 134 PC – preparing false evidence,
Penal Code 127 PC – suborning perjury.
How Can I Fight PC 118 Perjury Charges?
If you or a loved one faces perjury charges in the state of California, you need a skilled criminal defense team who knows precisely how to address these charges.
Typically, there are three options for perjury defense strategies:
- you can try to show that there was no intentional lie;
- you can demonstrate that there was no material matter, or;
- you can show that you were not under oath.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers have the benefit of years of experience informing their choice of strategy in your case.
It's important that you realize that your entire future may be at risk due to your potentially criminal actions.
Working with a team of legal experts to defend your case and your reputation is your best choice for success.
We may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor for reduced charges or a case dismissal.
Further, through prefiling intervention, we might be able to convince the prosecutor from filing formal charges before court.
Our law firm offers a free immediate response to help you best assess your situation.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-ranked criminal defense law firm serving people in all Southern California courts, including Los Angeles County, Orange County, Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, Anaheim, Hollywood, Riverside, and San Bernardino.
Our office is located at 1999 Avenue of the Stars, 11th Fl., Los Angeles, CA 90067.
Our main office is in the San Fernando Valley next to the Van Nuys Superior Court at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401.
Contact our office for an initial consultation at (877) 781-1570.