Are you facing criminal charges in Texas? Or, is there a possibility that you will be asked to testify during a criminal trial? In either situation, if you are called to the stand and testify under oath, you are expected to tell the truth.
What happens if you don’t tell the truth on the stand? Will there be consequences if you lie under oath and are later caught?
If you lie while under oath with the intention of deceiving, you commit the offense of perjury, which is criminalized under Sec. 37.02 of the Texas Penal Code.
In Texas, there is perjury and then there is aggravated perjury, which is more serious than simple perjury. So, what exactly constitutes perjury?
Under Sec. 37.02, a person commits perjury when he or she knowingly and with the intent to deceive, makes a false statement (lie) while under oath, or when they swear about the truth of a statement they made previously and the statement was required or authorized by law to be made under oath.
The offense of perjury under Sec. 37.02 is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and by a maximum fine of $4,000.
Aggravated Perjury Under Texas Law
A person commits the offense of aggravated perjury when he or she commits perjury as defined in Sec. 37.02, but the person’s false statement was:
- Made during an official proceeding (e.g. a criminal trial), or
- In connection to an official proceeding, or
- A material statement, meaning, it could affect the course or outcome of a case.
Let’s say that Anna lied when she sat on the witness stand during a criminal prosecution. Anna eventually got caught by the prosecutor and now she wants to know if she has any defenses.
Anna claims that when she lied, she didn’t realize that her false statement could impact the outcome of the case. Since she mistakenly believed that her statement was immaterial (not important or relevant),” can she escape an aggravated perjury charge?
Under Sec. 37.04 (b) of the Texas Penal Code, it is no defense to an aggravated perjury charge to assert that one “mistakenly believed” their false statement was immaterial.
Aggravated perjury under Sec. 37.03 is a felony of the third degree, punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and by a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Essentially, a criminal defendant or a witness is not supposed to lie under oath, period. Otherwise, they can be charged with perjury or aggravated perjury depending on the facts of the case.