As a general rule, judges and prosecutors simply don’t want to deal with perjury unless it directly affects a case they are prosecuting. One of the reasons that prosecutors don’t like to charge perjury is because a person can avoid perjury charges by retracting the false statements any time before the case is finalized. If charged with perjury, a witness could merely retract the statement at a later hearing.
Therefore, successfully pursuing charges for perjury can be very difficult.
Prepare to be Frustrated
In one permanent protection order case, my team caught a client’s wife lying on the stand during the hearing. She completely contradicted earlier testimony. While the judge found that she lacked credibility, there were still more hearings to go. When the D.A.’s office was contacted about pursuing charges against the wife, the client was informed that the case wasn’t final and, therefore, she might retract the false testimony
While she didn’t get all the relief that she wanted, this woman was never punished for lying on the stand, and that was extremely frustrating to the client.
Never Lie to A Judge
In a recent DUI case, I was able to plea-bargain down to a non-alcohol related offense and get my client an unbelievably good deal. Unfortunately, when the judge asked him if he had any prior convictions, my client hesitated before lying and saying no. [He was instructed that he didn’t have to answer.]
Because of that hesitation, the judge decided to postpone sentencing so that he could do a little more investigating. During that investigation, the Judge determined that my client had lied, and the Judge threatened to throw out the deal entirely.
Ultimately, and very reluctantly, the judge consented to our deal [he found the prosecution would have difficulty proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt]. Again, since the case wasn’t over, the client could retract his statement, and, therefore, didn’t face perjury charges. While this ultimately worked out well for my client, you should never lie to a judge. Either tell the judge you refuse to reveal that information (which you have every right to do) or tell the truth.
The best way to avoid “he said/she said” situations in court is by documenting everything. I sometimes remind my clients that, while I can’t recommend that they do it, I can tell them that it is legal in Colorado to record conversations with people without telling them if you are a party to that conversation.
I had a case where a woman was hell-bent on keeping my client from having a relationship with his child. She claimed that my client was a physically violent person and cited an incident when she’d had to call the police. She claimed that she was afraid for her life and that she was sobbing while making that call.
After she testified, I played the 911 call. In it, she calmly stated that all she wanted to do was get her husband into alcohol counseling. There was no hint of any fear in her voice. The judge said, “I realize that people deal with stress in different ways, but I didn’t find one drop of what she testified to be clear on this tape.” Without the 911 tape, it is very probable the Court would have believed the wife.
Soon after that hearing, she filed another motion to stop my client from seeing the kids. That time her mother and her claimed that she thought he might kill them during a recent incident.
Luckily, my client had video footage of the entire exchange and was able to provide it to the judge. It was a small amount of footage that completely contradicted the other side’s testimony. We easily won the case.
If you’re well enough prepared before trial, it will be easy to prove when a witness isn’t telling the truth. Even though that person might not be punished for lying, proving that they are will only strengthen your case.