Perjury is the crime of lying under oath. While multiple federal statutes punish perjurious conduct, two in particular are aimed squarely at criminalizing a witness's false statements made under oath during legislative, administrative or judicial proceedings: 18 U.S.C. §§ 1621 and 1623. The former broadly covers false statements made before any federal tribunal or officer; the latter is more narrowly focused on false statements made before federal courts and grand juries. A third statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1622, criminalizes the subornation of perjury, which is the procuring of another to commit perjury. Violations of these three statutes are deemed extremely serious by federal judges and are punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
Specifically, 18 U.S.C. § 1621 punishes any individual who, after having taken an oath to testify truthfully before a federal tribunal, officer or person, willfully states or subscribes to any material matter which that person does not believe to be true. Similarly, this statute prohibits any individual from subscribing as true any material declaration, certificate or verification which that person does not believe to be true. As the Supreme Court has recognized, "[a] witness testifying under oath or affirmation violates this statute if she gives false testimony concerning a material matter with the willful intent to provide false testimony, rather than as a result of confusion, mistake, or faulty memory." United States v. Dunnigan, 507 U.S. 87, 94 (1993).
18 U.S.C. § 1623, on the other hand, prohibits any individual testifying in any proceeding before any court or grand jury of the United States from knowingly making under oath any materially false declaration or statement. This may be proven by the government by their simply demonstrating that the defendant has testified in a materially inconsistent fashion on at least two occasions. Importantly, while § 1621 requires a prosecutor to prove that a defendant willfully testified falsely, § 1623 requires a prosecutor only to prove that he knowingly lied; this is simpler to establish. Courts have recognized that the following elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for a defendant to be convicted of a violation of § 1623: 1) the defendant knowingly made; 2) a materially false declaration; 3) under oath; and 4) in a proceeding before any court or grand jury of the United States. Finally, in the case of a witness who has testified in a materially inconsistent fashion on multiple occasions, it is an affirmative defense that he believed each statement to be true at the time it was made; and if an individual admits his lie and recants his false testimony during the very same proceeding in which it occurred, he cannot be prosecuted for perjury pursuant to § 1623.
Even if a defendant is not charged with a violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1621 or 1623 for making a materially false statement under oath, if during his prosecution for another crime he willfully obstructs or impedes the administration of justice, his sentencing guidelines may be enhanced by two levels - equal to as much as 68 additional months imprisonment. As relevant here, this includes testifying falsely on one's own behalf at trial, i.e., committing perjury.
Hiring a top criminal defense attorney to defend you in any federal prosecution is crucial and will ensure that every viable defense is explored and utilized on your behalf. New York federal criminal attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman have successfully handled countless federal perjury cases, exploiting holes in the prosecution's evidence to achieve the best possible result for our clients. Contact us today at (212) 581-1001 for a free consultation.