Perjury and False Swearing – C.R.S. 18-8-502

According to ‘C.R.S. 18-8-502(a) – Perjury in the First Degree,’ a person commits perjury in the first degree if in any official proceeding, he knowingly makes a materially false statement, which he does not believe to be true, under an oath required or authorized by law.

According to part (b) of that same statute, “knowledge of the materiality of the statement is not an element of this crime, and the defendant’s mistaken belief that his statement was not material is not a defense, although it may be considered by the court in imposing sentence.”

Breaking the statute, or law, down into smaller sections is key to understanding this complex charge. First, and most importantly, there must be a “materially false statement.” A “materially false statement” means any false statement, regardless of its admissibility, which could have affected the course or outcome of an official proceeding, or the action or decision of a public servant, or the performance of a governmental function.

Second, that materially false statement must have been made during “any official proceeding” – which includes any proceeding heard before a legislative, judicial, administrative or other government agency authorized to hear evidence.

Third, the person must make the statement “knowingly.”

Fourth, it must be proven that the individual making the statement, must not believe that the statement is true.

Fifth, the statement must be made under oath.

As can be seen by the number of different elements that must be proven, these cases are complex in nature. Not only is this law based on intricate language but it can also require the use of complicated defenses.

As opposed to Perjury in the First Degree, a person commits ‘Perjury in the Second Degree’, under C.R.S. 18-8-503, when an individual has the “intent to mislead a public servant in the performance of his/her duty” and then makes a materially false statement which he does not believe to be true, and under oath required or authorized by law. Critically important, Perjury in the Second Degree occurs outside of, or independent of, an official proceeding.

Obviously, the main difference between First- and Second-degree perjury is whether the materially false statement is made during an “official proceeding,” as is the case with First-degree perjury, or outside of an “official proceeding.”

A clear example of Perjury in the First Degree may include someone making a materially false statement while acting as a witness or party to a case and while on the record, under oath, in the Courtroom.

An example of Perjury in the Second Degree may include someone making a materially false statement on an official document – but not at a proceeding – i.e. on an unemployment application.

With that said, the Colorado Supreme Court told us in the 1994 case, People v. Chaussee, 880 P.2d 749 ( Colo. 1994) that the difference between first- and second-degree perjury does not turn on whether a statement is written versus oral, but rather upon whether a false statement made under oath occurs in an “official proceeding.”

Related to both first degree- and second-degree perjury is the crime of False Swearing, under C.R.Ss. 18-8-504.

“A person commits false swearing if he knowingly makes a materially false statement, other than those prohibited by sections 18-8-502 and 18-8-503, which he does not believe to be true, under an oath required or authorized by law.”

This statute is almost identical to the laws on first degree- and second degree- perjury and that is intentional – this is considered, in the legal industry, to be a ‘catch-all.’ Significantly, no “official proceeding” is required and one cannot be charged with this offense and with second degree-perjury.

The different perjury and false swearing laws prohibit different behaviors in different settings. These offenses also differ in the sentencing ranges that may be applicable to a conviction.

Perjury in the first degree is a class 4 felony.

Perjury in the second degree is a class 1 misdemeanor.

False swearing is a class 1 petty offense.

The experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Jacob E. Martinez understand the different ways in which these Perjury cases are prosecuted. These perjury statutes are not only complex in their nature but also range from petty offenses to felonies.

Contact the Law Office of Jacob E. Martinez today in order to set up a consultation and put us to work protecting your rights.