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Perjury Charges in TN

Legal Definition of Perjury in Tennessee

In the state of Tennessee, perjury is a serious offense that occurs when an individual intentionally lies under oath. Specifically, as defined in Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-16-702, perjury occurs when a person, with the intent to deceive, does the following:

  • Makes a false statement (written or oral) under oath.
  • Makes a state under oath recanting a previous truthful statement.
  • Makes a false statement on a document or declaration that informs the subject they face the penalty of perjury.

In Tennessee, a person can also face aggravated perjury charges. This offense occurs when a person knowingly and with the intent to deceive makes a false statement:

  • that is material, or
  • that is made in connection with or during official proceedings.

Elements Required to Prove Perjury

Central to a perjury charge in Tennessee is the requirement that the false statement was made under an oath or affirmation. This legal protocol serves as a formal promise to tell the truth and is administered by an authorized official.

The concept of materiality is also a cornerstone in perjury cases. For a false statement to constitute aggravated perjury in Tennessee, it must be material, meaning it has the potential to influence the outcome of the proceedings. The falsehood must be significant enough to affect the course of justice, not merely incidental or irrelevant.

This requirement ensures that the legal system focuses on deceit that poses a real threat to judicial integrity rather than expending resources on inconsequential inaccuracies. The materiality of a statement is thus a litmus test for the seriousness of the perjury charge.

Penalties for Committing Perjury in Tennessee

Perjury in Tennessee is not taken lightly and is met with stringent penalties that reflect its severity. Those found guilty of this offense can face criminal charges that may result in fines, imprisonment, or both.

In Tennessee, the penalties for perjury and aggravated perjury are different:

  • Perjury is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
  • Aggravated perjury is a more serious offense and is considered a Class D felony. The penalty for aggravated perjury is imprisonment for two to 12 years and a fine of up to $5,000.

Common Defenses Against Perjury Charges

Proving perjury in a Tennessee court is a formidable task, as the burden of proof lies heavily on the prosecution. The inherent challenge is to unequivocally establish that the defendant knowingly lied about a material fact while under oath.

This often hinges on the credibility of witnesses and the strength of documentary evidence, both of which can be subject to intense scrutiny. Defense attorneys may exploit any ambiguity in the wording of statements or the context in which they were made to undermine the prosecution's case.

A common strategy is to argue the absence of intent, claiming that any false statement was made inadvertently or due to misunderstanding rather than a deliberate attempt to mislead. Another defense is to challenge the materiality of the statement, asserting that the information provided, even if false, was not significant enough to affect the judicial process.

Legal counsel can also question the clarity of the oath or affirmation, suggesting that the defendant was not fully aware of the obligation to provide truthful statements. These defenses aim to introduce reasonable doubt, which can be sufficient to avoid a conviction.

If you have been charged with perjury, the white collar crime attorneys at Eldridge and Cravens, PC are prepared to help. Call (865) 544-2010.