Long Island, NY Personal Injury
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A Lie By Any Other Name Would Still Be Against The Law

    In the Law, we call lying perjury. Perjury in Court, in a deposition, or committed to legal documents is serious business.

    When an individual appears in Court and takes an oath to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, then tells a lie, not only may that put a case at risk, it also may put that individual’s freedom at risk. In general, judges do not look too kindly upon witnesses who knowingly lie to the Court. The American legal system, although not perfect, depends heavily upon getting to the truth of the matter in order to achieve justice. Lying under oath (or perjuring one’s self) shakes the very foundation of our legal system, and in plain English, the system then cannot work properly.

    In New York, as most everywhere in this country, there are “degrees” of perjury charges: First Degree, Second Degree, and Third Degree, with First Degree charges carrying the heaviest penalties. Of course, much depends upon the discretion of the judge, but perjury can mean from one to seven years in prison and/or from $1,000 to $5,000 in fines.

    In considering the relative seriousness of perjury charges, generally the Court will weigh how relevant the perjury (or lie) is to the matter at hand. In other words, if a witness lies under oath about something not directly related to the case, it probably will not be dealt with as harshly as it would were he to lie about a fact that has a direct impact on the case. Nonetheless, any lie by any witness calls into question that witness’s credibility. Begging the question: should the judge and/or jury believe that individual since he lied about something else? The truth matters. The absence of the truth adversely affects peoples’ lives.

    Because the truth is the basis of our legal system, generally New York perjury law, Penal Code article 210, does not allow for ignorance. In other words, if a witness lies but incorrectly believes that lie is immaterial to the case, the Court will not allow that defense. That determination is not up to the witness. Nor will the Court allow a lack of competence as a defense. Perhaps, the thinking is, if someone is competent enough to lie, demonstrating a certain amount of cunning, that person is competent enough to know the lie is wrong.

    Although I have not often come across clients who will perjure themselves, I still always stress the paramount importance of being truthful in Court, in a deposition, and in legal documents. The repercussions of perjury are personally severe, and dishonesty can destroy even the best personal injury case.

    When under oath, when being questioned by an officer of the Court, when signing legal documents, if you cannot remember the truth, do not know the truth, or even if the truth is something you would prefer not to know, perjury is not the answer. If you are unsure or don’t know the answer, say so.

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