New Push to Combat Perjury

Perjury prosecutions could be on the rise after creation of a first-of-its-kind “perjury investigations unit” in California. One prosecutor is assigned to the unit, created by the Lake County district attorney in response to 20 years served in prison by a wrongfully-convicted defendant as a result of perjured testimony in his case.[1] Giving false testimony under oath is commonly known as perjury. In California, prosecutors can charge a perjurer with a felony. However, many perjury cases are difficult to prove because the prosecutor must show that not only did the witness make a false statement under oath, but also that he or she knew the statement was false when made.[2] Another person making a contradictory statement to what the defendant said does not constitute sufficient proof of perjury; there must be additional evidence.[3] Further, many courts do not have the resources to pursue perjury cases.[4]

Experts say that most possible perjury arises in “he said, she said” cases where two witnesses’ testimony contradict each other.[5] While some think lying under oath has become accepted, others trust in the legal system and the ability of jurors to detect liars.[6] The Lake County perjury unit is uncommon because most prosecutors only bring perjury charges if other charges do not stick or to make an example of a prominent public figure.[7] Lil’ Kim, Barry Bonds, and O.J. Simpson investigator Mark Fuhrman all faced perjury claims.[8]

Despite these odds, the Lake County perjury investigations unit recently filed charges in its first case. If successful, the defendant could face up to 18 months in prison.[9]

— By Julia Damron, Esq., Barnes Law

Julia Damron is an associate attorney with Barnes Law, licensed to practice law in California.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

[1] Thanawala, Sudhin, “Lying under oath draws California prosecutor's ire”, ABC News, Aug. 27, 2016,

[2] Cal. Penal Code § 118.

[3] Id.

[4] Thanawala, supra.

[5] Id.; Suro, Roberto and Miller, Bill, “Perjury: A Tough Case to Make”, Wash. Post, Sept. 24, 1998, available at:

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Thanawala, supra; Trex, Ethan, “4 Famous People Convicted of Perjury”, Mental Floss, Aug. 26, 2010,

[9] Thanawala, supra.