If you say "I don't know" in a Californian court, is it perjury?

A criminal court proceeding can be a daunting thing, whether you are charged with a crime, or whether you are being asked to testify in a case. There is a lot of pressure on a person when they take to the stand and are asked to swear an oath that they will tell the truth. Everyone has to do this, although it's not necessary to swear on the Bible; many courts do not use a Bible at all anymore.

Even so, it can be difficult when you are under the spotlight, and telling the truth is uncomfortable. It's important to note that there can be severe penalties if you do not tell the truth, and it can be proven. Interestingly, this can even apply if you simply say that you do not know or do not remember. We are going to take a look at why this is the case, and examine the topic of perjury as a whole.

What is perjury?

If you intentionally say something which is not true when you are under oath in court, and what you are saying is relevant to the case, you could be found to have committed perjury. This is why so many defendants use the Fifth Amendment to avoid saying something in court that may help to incriminate them. Of course, you can only be found to have committed perjury if it can be proven that you lied. There are occasions when people just make a genuine mistake while giving evidence.

What if you say that you do not know?

You may think that saying you do not know, or you do not remember, when you are asked a question, is a good way of getting out of a tricky situation. This is not necessarily the case. Do not forget that perjury is all about the fact that you have told a lie. If you genuinely do not know an answer, or you cannot remember part of what happened, it's fine to say so. If you lie about not knowing or not remembering, that is still potential perjury.

It's important to say that the court has to prove you have committed perjury which might be difficult for it to do. That being said, you may have previously made a statement that suggests you actually do know something that you claim not to be aware of. When you are under the pressure of being on the stand, it's easy to forget things that you have already said and done, which could be used to prove that you have committed perjury.

So, you can still be guilty of perjury, even if you just say you do not know. It depends on the circumstances. If you have any concerns about committing perjury in a Californian courtroom, contact a San Diego Criminal Attorney who can put their experience and expertise to use, to help you.

What to do about claiming if you are assaulted at ...
Did the negligence of an attorney stop you from wi...

Related Posts