Skip to Main Content

Perjury versus Aggravated Perjury: What’s the Difference?

Some little white lies aren’t so little. Under Texas law, you can face criminal charges for lying under oath, and it’s possible to go to jail if convicted. We see perjury charges often brought with fraud cases, but it’s possible to face perjury charges as a stand-alone offense.

Below, our League City criminal defense attorney compares perjury and aggravated perjury. The good news is that you might have valid defenses to raise which can defeat the criminal charges, but it’s best to seek out legal help immediately.

What is Perjury?

Texas Penal Code § 37.02 makes it a crime to make a false statement under oath or in an unsworn declaration (i.e., under penalty of perjury). It’s also a crime to swear under oath that a prior false statement is true. To obtain a conviction, the prosecutor must show you knew the statement’s meaning and made it with an intent to deceive.

We see perjury charges brought for lying in court, lying in a deposition, or including false information on an application for welfare benefits.

If convicted, you are looking at a $4,000 fine and a year in jail.

What is Aggravated Perjury?

Penal Code § 37.03 states that you’ve committed aggravated perjury if you commit perjury under § 37.02 but also (1) make the false statement during or in connection with an official proceeding, and (2) the false statement is material. These aren’t just lies. These are lies that were consequential.

A false statement is “material” when it might have affected the outcome of a case. For example, lying about a positive identification for a murder could swing a jury to convict someone. Lying about your address while testifying probably wouldn’t.

A judge will decide if a statement is material. This is a judgment call, but it matters enormously in terms of punishment. If convicted of aggravated perjury, you face third-degree felony charges. That means possibly 2-10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Tad Nelson Can Defend Against Perjury Accusations

Some of the best defenses include:

  • You didn’t know the statement was false when you made it
  • You didn’t intend to deceive anyone
  • The statement wasn’t made under oath or as part of an unsworn declaration

If you face aggravated perjury charges, we can argue that the false statement wasn’t material to the outcome of a case. This requires a thorough understanding of the facts of the case and how your testimony fits into it. Reach out to a lawyer as soon as possible.

It is vital to do everything possible to fight a perjury accusation. As a crime of moral turpitude, it could impact your ability to keep a professional license, gain admission to college, or even obtain employment. Multiple accusations of perjury can also snowball into more serious criminal charges.

Criminal Defense Attorneys in League City

Tad Nelson has broad experience defending people accused of non-violent offenses like perjury. These cases require careful attention to detail as well as persuasive argumentative skills. To see if we can help, contact us to schedule a consultation.