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Could I Really Go to Prison for Perjury?

If you have ever testified under oath or signed a legal document making statements “under penalties of perjury,” you might be asking if anyone is ever actually prosecuted for perjury. The answer is yes. If prosecutors can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly made a misstatement of fact while under oath, you can be convicted of perjury, which carries significant criminal penalties under Maryland law.

Maryland Court of Appeals Reinstates Harsh Sentence for Woman Convicted of Making False Sexual Assault Allegation

To illustrate just how serious, consider this recent decision from the Maryland Court of Appeals. In State v. McGagh, the defendant accused a cell phone store employee of sexually assaulting her. Specifically, she alleged that the employee “touched her breast and inner thigh” and engaged in other inappropriate conduct when she attempted to get her phone fixed. The employee denied the allegations and said the defendant was simply “agitated and upset by his inability to quickly repair or replace her phone.”

The day after this encounter, the defendant went to the police and provided her version of what happened. She signed a formal statement under penalty of perjury regarding the alleged sexual assault. The police subsequently arrested the employee. A few hours later, prosecutors decided to drop the charges.

Ultimately, prosecutors charged the defendant with perjury and making a false statement to the police. At trial, the prosecution submitted surveillance footage taken from the in-store video cameras, which contradicted the defendant’s account of the alleged sexual assault. A judge, hearing the case without a jury, found the defendant guilty, holding that “she intentionally lied” to the police and that it was “completely and totally untrue” that the employee sexually assaulted her as she claimed.

The judge sentenced the defendant to 10 years in prison–suspending all but eight years–for the perjury and another six months for making a false statement to the police. In pronouncing such a harsh sentence, the judge cited the defendant’s “history of deceitfulness, consistent irresponsibility to honor financial obligations and lack of remorse.” The court further noted the defendant’s other illegal actions, such as driving on a suspended license and a “shocking” number of traffic violations.

The Court of Special Appeals actually reversed the defendant’s conviction due to insufficient evidence. But the Court of Appeals reinstated the trial court’s judgment. The state’s highest court chided the intermediate court by conducting its own “independent” review of the evidence rather than examining the trial judge’s decisions for possible abuses of discretion. The Court of Appeals further rejected the Court of Special Appeals’ belief that the defendant’s statements to the police constituted protected First Amendment activities.

More to the point, the evidence was sufficient to show the defendant had lied. Maryland law typically requires the testimony of at least two witnesses to prove “falsity” of a defendant’s statements. Here, the two witnesses were the employee and the video surveillance footage. While a video camera may not be alive, it can — and did — provide independent corroboration of the employee’s testimony.

Speak With a Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

Whenever you are involved in any type of criminal investigation, it is essential that you never lie or intentionally try and mislead the police. Indeed, if you are a criminal suspect, your best bet is to invoke your right to remain silent and wait to speak with an experienced Waldorf criminal defense attorney. Contact the Law Office of Robert R. Castro if you need help right away.

This article has been provided by Law office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions contact our office to speak to an experienced lawyer at (301)705-5137.