Massachusetts G.L. c. 268, § 1: Perjury

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 268, section 1 makes it a crime to willfully lie in a judicial proceeding, or while under oath or making an affirmation. Under the statute, a person can be convicted of perjury if the Commonwealth can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that one of the two following situations occurred:

(1) Perjury in a judicial proceeding:

  • The law required the defendant to tell the truth at a judicial proceeding or in a proceeding in a course of justice;
  • While under that legal requirement, the defendant made a statement regarding a material issue;
  • The defendant’s statement was false; and
  • The defendant made the false statement willfully.

(2) Perjury while under oath or affirmation:

  • The law required the defendant to take an oath or affirmation (other than in court);
  • While under that legal requirement, the defendant made a statement;
  • The defendant’s statement was false; and
  • The defendant made the false statement willfully.

Perjury can be charged even where the defendant has made two contradictory statements, if the statements were material to the point in question, and their inconsistency necessarily means that one of the statements was false.

Related Offenses
  • G.L. c. 268, § 2 (subordination of perjury)
  • G.L. c. 268, § 3 (attempt to procure another to commit perjury)
  • G.L. c. 268, § 6 (false reports or testimony before state departments, board, or commissioner; false entries in company books or statements)
Defenses to Perjury

G.L. c. 268, § 1 expressly provides that it will be a defense to the charge of perjury if the defendant believed his false statement was true at the time that he made it, or that the falsity of the statement was the result of the defendant’s good faith mistake or error. Additionally, under limited circumstances, if the defendant admits that his statement was false, that admission may save him from being prosecuted under the statute. However, because a number of factors will be considered before the defendant’s admission will save him from prosecution, a defendant should consult with a lawyer before making any admissions of false statements. Finally, if the defendant was forced to make the false statement under duress, or based upon credible threats of harm if the defendant told the truth, then the defendant may defend the charge on the grounds that he or she did not “willfully” make the false statement.

Penalties

If the defendant is convicted of committing perjury during the trial of an indictment for a capital crime, then the defendant will face a sentence of up to life in prison, or for any other term of years. If the defendant committed perjury under any of the other circumstances described in the statute, then the defendant will face (i) up to twenty years in prison, or (ii) a fine up to $1,000, or (iii) up to two and one-half years in jail, or (iv) both a fine and imprisonment in jail.

Perjury Defense Attorney Stephen Neyman

Perjury is a very serious crime that is being prosecuted more and more aggressively. If you have been accused of or charged with the crime of perjury, contact Attorney Stephen Neyman today at 617-263-6800 for a free consultation. With more than 25 years of experience representing the criminally accused, Attorney Neyman will work to ensure that your rights are protected, and will aim to secure the best possible outcome on your behalf.

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