Perjury is a criminal offense in Rhode Island, and understanding what constitutes perjury is important for anyone who is about to testify. Making a mistake while testifying in front of a judge can lead to criminal charges.
In Rhode Island, perjury is governed by Statute § 11 – 33 – 1. In Rhode Island, perjury is governed by Statute § 11 – 33 – 1. The law states perjury involves knowingly making statements under oath or affirmation that are false and that are material.
Relying on or using any book, document, paper, record, recording, or any other material, while knowing that the material contains a false and material declaration can also be considered perjury if done under oath.
Under Oath or Affirmation
“Under oath or affirmation” refers to the part of testimony which involves swearing to tell the truth, or, for those philosophically opposed to swearing under oath, affirming they will tell the truth. This can include testimony in court, as well as testimony in a deposition.
When one makes a statement knowing it is false, this means they are deliberately misleading. An honest mistake is not the same thing as knowingly offering false testimony.
False statements are those statements that are not true. Often, in perjury cases, people are charged because they have testified twice under oath, to facts that cannot both be true. For example, imagine someone testifies in a civil case that they were driving the car that caused the accident. Later, they testify in the criminal case they were not driving the car that caused the accident.
Both of these statements cannot be true. Therefore, one of them must be false. It is important to know that the government does not have to prove which statement is false in order to obtain a conviction for perjury. Instead, they only have to prove the two statements are “irreconcilably contradictory.” In other words, the statements cannot both be true.
A statement is material if it goes to the heart of the matter. For example, imagine a person testifies they saw a person drive a blue car through the intersection. The also testify the car drove through the intersection against the light. Imagine further, the driver is on trial for driving through a red light. Whether or not a witness saw a driver run the red light is material.
Whether or not the car is blue, as opposed to red, green, or yellow, on the other hand, is not material. Certainly, this should not be interpreted as a license to lie about the little things while under oath. However, perjury charges only come from cases where the misrepresentation was knowing and material to the case at hand.
Facing Criminal Charges?
If you are facing criminal charges, or if you are concerned about potential perjury charges, you need a qualified criminal defense attorney by your side to assist you. At The Law Offices of Kensley R. Barrett, Esq., we have the experience gained by representing countless clients in criminal court. Contact our offices today to schedule a free consultation at (401) 380-6724.