Without the truth, there can be no justice. For this reason, crimes of perjury come with serious penalties and punishments. As a practical matter, however, the system often turns a blind eye to false statements even when they are made under oath because of the difficulties with prosecuting these crimes.
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 acknowledgment 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 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.
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 during a criminal investigation.
We represent clients charged with perjury under Florida Statute §837.02 for statements made during an official proceeding and under § 837.012 when the statement was not made during an official proceeding.
We represent clients charged with serious felony offenses throughout the Tampa Bay area including in Hillsborough County, Hernando County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, and Polk County, FL.
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Penalties and Punishments for Perjury in Florida
In Florida, “the offense of perjury in an official proceeding is a third-degree felony and is punishable by up to five years in prison.”
Under § 837.02(1), Fla. Stat., “[e]xcept as provided in subsection (2), whoever makes a false statement, which he or she does not believe to be true, under oath in an official proceeding in regard to any material matter, commits a felony of the third degree.”
Under § 775.082(3)(e), Fla. Stat., “[f]or a felony of the third degree, a person who has been convicted may be punished by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years.”
The criminal offense of perjury 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.
Elements of Proving 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:
- 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).
- The oath or affirmation was made to a specific person who allegedly administered the oath who was acting in a specified official capacity.
- Defendant, while under an oath, made the statement described in the charging document.
- The statement was false.
- Defendant did not believe the statement was true when 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
Under § 837.011, Florida Statute, 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.
Recantation 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:
- The false statement has not substantially affected the proceeding; or
- Such admission is made before it has become manifest that such a 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 provide which, if any, of the contradictory statements, are 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 commission 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 concerning 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 a 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;
- the abridgment of the officer’s civil rights arising out of the officer’s performance of official duties, or
- filing a complaint against the officer which the person knew was false when it was filed.
Statute of Limitations for Perjury in Florida
What happens if a witness to a crime later recants their testimony long after the running of the statute of limitations for perjury? In those cases, the court must look at the timing issues as one factor to be considered when determining if the recantation lacks indicia of reliability.
For example in Moss v. State, 943 So. 2d 946, 948 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006), the court permitted consideration of and a finding that the recantation lacked indicia of reliability when the recantation was made after the statute of limitations for perjury had run.
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 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 14, 2022.