perjury (pûrˈjərē) [key], in criminal law, the act of willfully and knowingly stating a falsehood under oath or under affirmation in judicial or administrative proceedings. If the person accused of perjury had any probable cause for his belief that the statement he made was true, then he is not guilty of perjury. In U.S. federal law, and in most states, a false statement must be material to a point of inquiry in order to constitute perjury. Perjury is a crime and may be punished by fine or imprisonment. One can retract false testimony in the course of a criminal procedure without committing perjury. The crime of inducing another person to commit perjury is called subornation of perjury.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.