Lying under oath can land someone in jail or even prison. Perjury occurs when someone gives false information while under oath. Perjury can occur whether the oath is taken verbally (such as testimony in court) or in writing (such as a sworn document or application).
It is a common misconception that perjury can only occur when someone lies in court or is “on the stand.” This is not accurate as perjury can take place at a deposition, any time an oath is taken, or even on a written document where the signature is signed affirming the truth of the contents in the document.
In Colorado, there are three types of perjury that can be charged as a crime.
- First Degree Perjury (felony): A person commits first degree perjury if in any proceeding and while under oath they knowingly make a materially false statement that they do not believe to be true.
First degree perjury is punishable by a fine and 2–6 years in prison with a mandatory 3 year parole period.
- Second Degree Perjury (misdemeanor): A person commits second degree perjury if under oath, other than in an official proceeding, with an intent to mislead a public servant in the performance of their duty, they make a materially false statement, which they do not believe to be the truth.
Second degree perjury committed prior to March 1, 2022, is punishable by a fine and 6–18 months in county jail. Second degree perjury committed after March 1, 2022, is punishable by a fine and up to 120 days in jail.
- False swearing (petty): A person commits false swearing any time they knowingly make a materially false statement under oath.
False swearing committed prior to March 1, 2022, is punishable by a fine and up to 6 months in county jail. False swearing committed after March 1, 2022, is punishable by a fine and up to 10 days in jail.
All forms of perjury require that the person make a “materially false statement.” In Colorado, “materially false” means a false statement, regardless of its admissibility under the rules of evidence, which could have affected the course or outcome of an official proceeding, or the action or decision of a public servant, or the performance of a government function. Telling a lie that has no real bearing on the outcome of a case is not perjury.
Just because someone tells a lie in Court does not mean they will be criminally prosecuted. Convincing law enforcement to prosecute someone for perjury can be challenging. Proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a person committed perjury can be difficult for a prosecutor. Despite perjury being rarely charged as a crime, when a witness is untruthful, a seasoned lawyer will use this opportunity to promote their client’s case.
The attorneys at Burnham Law have years of training and experience in dealing with opposing parties that lie and commit perjury. We work to turn these situations into positive outcomes for our clients. By effective examination and/or filing pleadings, Burnham Law focuses the Court by showing that the opposing party cannot be trusted and that our client’s version of events is credible.