Perjury Charges in Georgia

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perjury

Perjury in Georgia is a very serious felony charge. The punishments upon conviction can range from a nominal charge to life imprisonment. Even at the low end of punishments, though, felony convictions come with serious life implications. A felony conviction can limit job opportunities and housing opportunities. Bixon Law has gotten several clients off of these damaging felonies using the strategies outlined below.

Definition

In Georgia, Perjury is defined under O.C.G.A. § 16-10-70(a): “A person to whom a lawful oath or affirmation has been administered commits the offense of perjury when, in a judicial proceeding, he knowingly and willfully makes a false statement material to the issue or point in question.”

Perjury is basically a lie that is made under circumstances including the following three criteria: 1) it was made while under oath, 2) it was made during a judicial proceeding, and 3) it was about something material to that judicial proceeding. A “judicial proceeding” is any proceeding in a legally constituted court. A statement is material to an issue in a judicial proceeding if it is relating to the substance of the issue in question- basically, if it is critical to the main point of the hearing. For example, if a corporation leader is accused of sexual harassment and falsely denies knowing the alleged victim, that statement is central to the issue at hand and would be considered material. If during the trial the business leader made false statements regarding how the company handles finances, this would be irrelevant to the issue at hand and be immaterial, regardless of how serious the implications of the falsehood may be.

Punishments

Perjury is a felony in Georgia, and the punishment varies depending on the effect of the false statement. In most cases, the judge will have the option to sentence you to a fine or imprisonment. The fine cannot be more than $1,000, but has no minimum fine. Technically, the judge could sentence you to a $1 fine. If they instead chose to sentence you to imprisonment, they are allowed to sentence you to anywhere from one to ten years in prison.

If, however, the false statement caused someone else to be imprisoned, they are required to sentence you to imprisonment, for an amount of time equal to or less than the amount of time the other person was sentenced to. If it caused another person to be put to death, the judge is required to sentence you to life imprisonment.

The full text of the statute governing punishment for Perjury is found under O.C.G.A. § 16-10-70(b): “A person convicted of the offense of perjury shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000.00 or by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years, or both. A person convicted of the offense of perjury that was a cause of another’s being imprisoned shall be sentenced to a term not to exceed the sentence provided for the crime for which the other person was convicted. A person convicted of the offense of perjury that was a cause of another’s being punished by death shall be punished by life imprisonment.”

 Criminal Defenses

I Thought It Was True. One of the elements the prosecutor must prove is that you “knowingly and willingly” made false statements. Without any corroborating evidence of your knowledge, there is no way to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your denial of knowledge of the accuracy of your statements is false.

It Wasn’t Material. The prosecutor also must prove that the statements were material to the issue at hand. There is no objective test for materiality, and it almost always comes down to the jury’s perception of whether or not the statements made were central to your charges. Bixon Law has extensive experience dissuading the jury from ruling that statements alleged to amount to perjury were material.

Case Law

In State v. Ellis, DeKalb County CEO W. Burrell Ellis, Jr. was convicted of perjury and theft by extortion. Ellis was under investigation for corruption for pressuring companies who had business contracts with DeKalb County to make donations to his political campaign. During a special purpose grand jury hearing, Ellis testified that he had “never” ordered that a contract be canceled because a vendor did not return calls, and that he did not get involved in “who gets work and who doesn’t get work”.

Evidence at trial showed that Ellis had called Power and Energy Services, Inc., who had a $250,000 contract with the county, with the goal of obtaining a $2,500 campaign contribution. The owner said that he would think about it and get back to Ellis. Ellis called and left several messages reiterating his interest in a campaign donation, until ultimately Power and Energy’s secretary informed him that they would not be making a donation. In a secretly recorded phone call, Ellis then told DeKalb County’s Director of Contracting to “cut the contract” with the company because they would not return phone calls, and to put a note in their file saying they “did not return phone calls” to make sure they were not awarded any future contracts with the County.

Because Ellis made false statements regarding his involvement with ending contracts, which was the main point of the investigation, it was found that he made false statements that were material to the hearing while under oath, and he was convicted of perjury.

CONTACT BIXON LAW TODAY

If you have been charged with Perjury or a similar crime and need the best local criminal defense attorney, give Bixon Law a call today to speak to one of our experienced Georgia criminal defense lawyers. We will vigorously defend your criminal defense rights, and advocate on your behalf to have your criminal case dismissed or your charges reduced. As experienced trial attorneys, we are not afraid to take your case to trial if necessary. We represent clients in Atlanta and throughout the state of Georgia. We are lawyers who are committed to helping people in difficult situations, and we invite you to call us at (404) 551-5684 for a free consultation on your case today. 

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