Perjury graphic with Texas flag


Perjury is an offense that you commit by purposefully giving untruthful statements when you have sworn to tell the truth. State prosecuting attorneys will typically charge someone with Perjury when the lie has caused serious harm to someone else, but that is not a requirement under the law.

Perjury requires the state’s attorneys to not only prove that the statement is in fact untruthful, but also that the person knew the actual truth of the statement and intended to mislead an audience by telling the untruthful statement. This is a difficult thing to do, which is part of the reason why a Perjury charge is rare.

Have you been charged with Perjury? Call criminal lawyer Paul Saputo at (888) 239-9305 to discuss legal representation.

In order for a person to be under oath, the oath does not need to be conducted in any specific manner. Usually during a police interrogation a person is not under any oath to tell the truth, therefore the state’s lawyers must prove you did more than just lie to the police to convict you of Perjury. However, you may face other charges such as False Report to Peace Officer (Texas Penal Code §37.08). If a person makes inconsistent statements, both of which cannot be true, the state’s attorneys do not have to prove which statement is false only that both cannot be true in order to convict you of Perjury.1

What is the current Texas law about Perjury?

The current Texas law is as follows:2

(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.

You don’t need to have harmed anyone by making the statement. The elements of the law are simply that you intended to deceive, the statement was false and that it was made under oath.

What is the punishment for a Perjury conviction?

The offense of Perjury is a Class A misdemeanor.3 A Class A Misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a maximum possible fine of $4,000. Aggravated Perjury is a third degree felony, however, and it is not unprecedented to get a multiple-year prison sentence if you’re convicted.Learn more about the range of punishment for misdemeanors in Texas

What is a Retraction defense?

A retraction defense can only be used for prosecution of the offense of aggravated perjury and not for the offense of perjury. The defense applies if the person withdrew his statement before the completion of testimony during the official proceeding and the person withdrew his statement before it became known that the truth would be exposed.4 In other words, it is no defense to Aggravated Perjury if a person withdraws their false statement once it is already known that the statement was false.

What is the difference between Perjury and Aggravated Perjury?

Aggravated Perjury is not an enhancement offense of Perjury, but rather a different and separate offense. The offense of Aggravated Perjury contains different elements then the offense of Perjury. Aggravated Perjury is defined in Section 37.03(a) of the Texas Penal Code.5

The main difference between Perjury and Aggravated Perjury is that Aggravated Perjury must occur during an official proceeding, such as a trial, while Perjury does not. Another difference is the false statement must be Material to the case in Aggravated Perjury.

Additionally, the penalty for an Aggravated Perjury conviction is more severe. Aggravated Perjury is punished as a third degree felony, while simple Perjury is penalized as a Class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors are the highest grade of misdemeanors, and third degree felonies are the second-lowest grade of felonies.

Legal References:

1 Texas Penal Code §37.06 – “An information or indictment for perjury under Section 37.02 or aggravated perjury under Section 37.03 that alleges that the declarant has made statements under oath, both of which cannot be true, need not allege which statement is false. At the trial the prosecution need not prove which statement is false.”

2 Texas Penal Code §37.02(a)

3 Texas Penal Code §37.02(b)

4 Texas Penal Code §37.05

It is a defense to prosecution under Section 37.03 (Aggravated Perjury) that the actor retracted his false statement:

(1) before completion of the testimony at the official proceeding; and

(2) before it became manifest that the falsity of the statement would be exposed.

5 Texas Penal Code §37.03

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.

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