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Perjury

Without the truth, there can be no justice. For this reason, crimes of perjury are sometimes prosecuted aggressively in Florida. In other cases, the system turns a blind eye to false statements even when they are made under oath.

Florida law provides for several different types of charges for making a false statement in F.S.S. Chapter 837. Many law enforcement agencies, including the Tampa Police Department require that a citizen sign an acknowledgement that they have read the excerpts from Florida Statute Section 837 and understand that to make false statements in an official proceeding is a criminal act punishable as provided by Florida Statutes before they can file a citizen's complaint with the Internal Affairs Bureau. In fact, the Tampa Police Department uses a Form TPD 645-B, last revised in January of 2009 for that purpose.

The way that a crime for perjury is charged depends on whether or not it occurred during an official proceeding. Perjury, when it does not occur in an official proceeding, can be charged under Florida Statute § 837.012. When the perjury does occur in an official proceeding the charge is brought under §837.02.

Florida Statute Section 837.02 criminalizes making a false statement, which is not believed to be true by the person making the statement, under oath in an official proceeding in regard to any material matter. Under 837.02(1) the criminal offense of perjury is a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The criminal offense can be charged as a felony in the second degree under Florida Statute Section 837.02(2) when the false statement relates to the prosecution of a capital felony. This second degree felony is punishable by up to 15 years in Florida State Prison.

Attorney for Perjury Crimes in the Tampa Bay Area

Our attorneys are experienced in fighting criminal charges for perjury or making a false statement to a law enforcement officer druing a criminal investigation. Let us put our experience to work for you.

We represent clients charged with serious felony offenses such as perjury throughout the Tampa Bay area including in Hillsborough County, Hernando County, Pasco County, Pinellas County and Polk County, FL. Call today to speak with an attorney about the facts of your case at 813-250-0500.


Elements of Perjury in Florida

In order for the prosecutor with the State Attorney's Office to obtain a conviction for the criminal offense of perjury charged under Florida Statute § 837.012 or §837.02 at trial, the following elements must be proven at trial beyond all reasonable doubt:

  1. The Defendant took an oath or otherwise affirmed that the defendant was obligated by conscience or by law to speak the truth in the proceeding (either an official or unofficial proceeding in which the alleged oath was taken).
  2. The oath or affirmation was made to a specific person who allegedly administered the oath who was acting in a specified official capacity.
  3. The Defendant, while under an oath, made the statement described in the charging document.
  4. The statement was false.
  5. The Defendant did not believe the statement was true when the Defendant made the statement.

Under either § 837.012(2) or § 837.02(2), Fla.Stat.. knowledge of the materiality of the statement is not an element of this crime, and the defendant's mistaken belief that [his] [her] statement was not material is not a defense to the charge. Under § 837.011, Fla.Stat., questions of the authority to administer oaths, whether the form of the oath or attestation is required or authorized by law, the official or unofficial nature of the proceedings and the materiality of a statement are matters of law.

Under § 837.011(3), Fla.Stat., Florida law requires the judge to decide if the alleged statement is material. In fact, the jury is even told that the judge has decided that the statement is material and the jury should not concern itself with that issue. The jury instructions for perjury were adopted in 1981 and amended in 1992.


Recantion as a Defense to Perjury in Florida

A jury instruction on recantation should be given when raised as a defense. See § 837.07, Fla.Stat.; Carter v. State, 384 So.2d 1255 (Fla. 1980).

Section 837.07 for recantation as a defense provides:

Recantation shall be a defense to any prosecution for perjury or false statement only if the person making the false statement admits such statement to be false in the same continuous proceeding or matter, and:

  1. The false statement has not substantially affected the proceeding; or
  2. Such admission is made before it has become manifest that such false statement has been or will be exposed.

Perjury by Contradictory Statements - F.S. 837.021

It is a felony in the third degree under Florida Statute Section 837.021(1) to make two or more material statements in official proceedings under oath which contradict each other. Perjury by contradictory statements under Florida Statute Section 837.021(2) is a second degree felony.

In these cases, it is not necessary for the prosecutor with the State Attorney's Office to provde which, if any, of the contradictory statements is not true. Additionally, the statute provides that it is not necessarily a defense that the accused believed each statement to be true at the time the statement was made.


False Reports to Law Enforcement Authorities - F.S. 837.05

Florida Statute Section 837.05 provides that knowingly giving false information to any law enforcement officer concerning the alleged commision of a crime, is a misdemeanor in the first degree. A misdemeanor offense for making a false report to law enforcement is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $500 fine. The criminal offense is punishable as a third degree felony if the false information concerned the alleged commission of a capital felony.


False Complaints Against an Officer

Florida Statute Section 112.532(3) provides that "[e}very law enforcement officer or correctional officer shall have the right to bring civil suit against any person, group of persons, or organization or corporation, or the head of such organization or corporation, for damages, either pecuniary or otherwise, suffered during the performance of the officer's official duties, for the abridgment of the officer's civil rights arising out of the officer's performance of official duties, for the abridgment of the officer's civil rights araising out of the officer's performance of official duties, or for filing a complaint against the officer which the person knew was false when it was filed."


Finding an Attorney for Perjury Charges in Florida

If you are charged with any perjury offense in the State of Florida under F.S.S. Chapter 837, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. ;Our offices are conveniently located in downtown Tampa, FL. We represent clients charged with serious misdemeanor and felony offenses including perjury or making a false statement throughout the Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough County, FL, and the surrounding areas.

Call (813) 250-0500 today.


This article was last updated on Friday, January 5, 2018.