Georgia Criminal Law – Perjury

Perjury is a serious offense that causes immeasurable harm to the functioning and integrity of our legal system and to private individuals. As such, a conviction of perjury can have serious consequences on the accused. This article aims to explore the nature of perjury, possible punishment, and available defenses.

The Offense

O.C.G.A. § 16-10-70 provides, “a person to whom a lawful oath or affirmation has been administered commits the offense of perjury when, in a judicial proceeding, he knowingly and willfully makes a false statement material to the issue or point in question.”

Thus, the essential elements of perjury are: (1) knowingly and willfully making a false statement, (2) material to the issue or point in question, (3) while under oath in a judicial proceeding. Sneiderman v. State, 336 Ga.App. 153 (2016). Perjury is different from the offense of “false swearing” in that perjury requires both the intent to testify falsely and the act of false testimony, as opposed to swearing rashly or inconsiderately, according to belief (false swearing). Gates v. State, 252 Ga.App. 20 (2001).

The test of “materiality” is whether false testimony is capable of influencing tribunal on issue before it. U. S. v. Cosby, 601 F.2d 754 (1979).

Possible Punishment

A person convicted of perjury can be punished by a fine of up to $1,000.00 or by imprisonment for between one and ten years, or both. If the person convicted of perjury was the cause of another person being imprisoned will be sentenced to a term of imprisonment no greater than the sentence for which the other person was convicted. Further, if a person convicted of perjury was a cause of another person being punished by death, the perjurer shall be punished by life imprisonment.


  • Defendant was not under oath at the time the statement was made.
  • The false statements were not “material.”
  • The false statements were not knowingly or willfully made.
  • Defendant’s belief that his testimony was truthful constitutes absolute defense to charge of perjury regardless of whether the testimony is actually false. Richards v. State, 131 Ga.App. 362 (1974).

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