By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Texas Penal Code Chapter 37 covers perjury. Perjury, like any other type of charge, has differing levels of severity depending on the circumstances. The degree of offense ranges from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Third Degree Felony. Punishment level aside, Perjury is obviously a crime of moral terptitude which carries with it it’s own set of stigmas and consequences. Make no mistake — a perjury allegation is ridiculously bad news!
Section 37.02 says,
“(a) A person commits an offense if, with intent to deceive and with knowledge of the statement’s meaning:
“(1) he makes a false statement under oath or swears to the truth of a false statement previously made and the statement is required or authorized by law to be made under oath; or
“(2) he makes a false unsworn declaration under Chapter 132, Civil Practice and Remedies Code.
“(b) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.
This section refers to documents that you may be asked to execute under oath from time to time. In case you’re curious, Chapter 132 of the Civil Practice and Remedies code allows prisoners in the Texas Department of Corrections to file documents as if they were under oath by reciting a declaration… Probably because they don’t have many notaries working in prisons.
Aggravated Perjury is a Third Degree Felony and is under Section 37.03 which reads,
“(a) A person commits an offense if he commits perjury as defined in Section 37.02, and the false statement:
“(1) is made during or in connection with an official proceeding; and
“(2) is material….
Whether a statement is “material” is for the judge to decide. 37.04 covers materiality and says, “…A statement is material, regardless of the admissibility of the statement under the rules of evidence, if it could have affected the course or outcome of the official proceeding… It is no defense to prosecution under Section 37.03 (Aggravated Perjury) that the declarant mistakenly believed the statement to be immaterial.”
There is a defense to aggravated perjury and that is through retraction. retraction must be “before completion of the testimony at the official proceeding; and before it became manifest that the falsity of the statement would be exposed.”
Several other notes about perjury and aggravated perjury… No lawyer can ever assist someone in the commission of any offense, must less these offenses. You should RUN (not walk) away from any lawyer that suggests or insinuates otherwise.
Also many trials in criminal and civil law produce inconsistent statements from one witnesses (in varying degrees), or from multiple witnesses with differing accounts. Criminal prosecutions don’t automatically follow. It is up to the prosecuting agency to determine whether perjury has actually occurred and that the case is something worth pursuing.
If you are facing accusations of perjury or aggravated perjury, you should involve criminal counsel immediately. It is an extremely serious charge and can put a major crunch in your work and career plans!
Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any specific situation you should contact an attorney directly.