With so much recent news and discussion regarding perjury and the Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, a tutorial on the subject may be appropriate. Under Michigan law, perjury is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. It applies in any civil or criminal case. To commit perjury, there must be (1) an administration of an oath authorized by law, by competent authority; (2) sworn material statement of fact made; and (3) statements or testimony regarding those facts that are willfully false.
A material statement is one that could have affected the course or outcome of a proceeding although it need not actually affect the outcome.
Perjury is not limited to statements made while sworn under oath at a deposition or trial. Anytime a person falsely swears under oath as to a material issue, even in a document, that person can be subject to prosecution for perjury. A statute may authorize or require that an application or affidavit be signed “under penalty of perjury.” If it does, signing such a document, when there are known false statements contained within it, would constitute perjury.
Subornation of perjury is procuring another person to commit the crime of perjury. It is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison.
Example: During a contentious divorce proceeding, Joe Plaintiff decides that he has had enough of his wife Jane Defendant. Joe asks John Witness to testify that he saw Jane having an affair with another man. Joe knows that this is untrue but he and John cook up the story to get back at Jane. At trial, John falsely testifies and commits perjury, and because Joe asked John to testify falsely, Joe has committed subornation of perjury.
Incitement of perjury is procuring a person to commit perjury where no perjury is actually committed. It is attempting to suborn perjury. It is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in state prison.
Obstruction of justice is a common-law crime that uses the same standard as perjury except that the materially false statement need not be made under oath.
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