When you are sworn under oath in a courtroom, you understandably must make full and truthful statements. However, you also must not lie to any government official during questioning or at other times. In a courtroom, this crime is known as perjury. Outside of a courtroom, it is known as making a false statement. Keep in mind that false statement laws extend to witnesses, individuals who are under investigation and any others who may be involved in an investigation, an inquiry or other government activities. Because making a false statement to a federal official is a serious federal crime, it is important to involve your lawyer as soon as possible if you are being questioned. You do not need to be the subject of the investigation to benefit from the skilled expertise of a criminal defense lawyer.
Understanding False Statement Charges
When an individual makes a false statement to a federal official, he or she may be undermining the integrity of the government’s operations. Keep in mind that the false statement laws cover all branches of the government, and it covers both oral and written statements. The law specifically pertains to fraudulent statements, misrepresentations, scheming, lying and more.
A false statement charge is categorized as a process offense, and this means that it interferes with the normal and efficient operation of the government. In the case of a law enforcement investigation, the defendant may be cleared of all other charges, but he or she may still face penalties for making false statements. Outside of the realm of a law enforcement investigation, a false statement could be made in a legislative hearing, a Food and Drug Administration review and even the investigation of a terrorist plot.
Penalties for False Statement Charges
A single false statement made to a government official or agent could ultimately lead to the conviction of a false statement charge. Upon conviction, you may be sentenced to spend up to five years behind bars, and you may have to pay a fine of up to $250,000. Keep in mind that false statements that are related to a terrorism act can lead to an 8-year prison sentence. These penalties may be in addition to other penalties that you have been given.
Defense Strategies for False Statement Charges
The best strategy for dealing with a false statement charge is to seek the professional guidance of an attorney upfront before you are questioned. Your attorney can represent you during questioning to protect your rights and interests. However, if you have already been charged with making a false statement or if you believe that charges may be pending, be aware that your attorney may use one or a combination of strategies to defend you against the charges.
By law, a false statement is a willful misrepresentation or lie that was made in a hearing, an interview or another event that falls under the jurisdiction of a branch of government or one of its departments or agencies. More than that, the false statement must be material to the government’s activities. This means that it must be relevant and made with the intention of influencing a decision or activity.
With this in mind, your attorney may build your defense around several strategies around the legal definition of a false statement. For example, the attorney may claim that you believed your statement to be true at the time could be made. Keep in mind that it is up to the prosecutor to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that you knew about the false nature of the statement at the time it was made. Your attorney may also argue that the statement was immaterial to the matter at hand.
Consult with an Attorney Today
While the conviction of a false statement charge comes with serious consequences, there are a variety of techniques that your attorney may use to defend you against the charges. When successful, the techniques may result in dropped charges or in a plea bargain. As soon as you are called in for questioning, regardless of whether you are the subject of an inquiry or a witness, you should engage the services of a skilled attorney. If you are already facing charges, you should not delay hiring an attorney to represent you in this serious matter. For a legal consultation with a defense attorney, contact the law firm today.
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