When, if ever, is perjury legal?

We’re thinking being forced to lie in court by criminals who fear your testimony. I’m thinking that no one is holding a gun to your head when you’re in the courtroom under oath, so you should be able to tell the truth without immediate fear of death. Is there any case law on people being immune to perjury charges without having blanket immunity?

Realistically though, if you’ve been told that your family is being held hostage, don’t tell the cops, and say the right things…do you just have to trust that when you tell the police in the courthouse or simply spill your guts on the stand that everything will be taken care of? Or do you take the time in jail? What prosecutor wouldn’t carry through with the threat of being arrested for perjury?

I truly hate kidnapping and hostage movies, they are very manipulative.

The only thing to do in such a circumstance is contact the FBI. If you don’t have truly expert help, your hostages will most likely be killed as soon as the scum have what they want. Returning hostages is almost as dangerous as picking up the payoff, and they are witnesses.

the perjury would still be an illegal act though a court would look at extenuating circumstances as they apply…

The key concept the OP is looking for is justification, a legally sufficient reason or cause for an act that would otherwise be either criminal or tortious.

Rhapsody is incorrect to suggest, then, that the act is ultimately illegal. (I know - hard to believe someone would post an answer in General Questions when they were not completely sure of their facts. I’m as stunned as you are.)

A person accused of perjury in the circumstances described in the OP could, in a common-law jurisdiction, offer the affirmative defense of duress. He would have to show, by preponderance of the evidence, that he was subject to wrongful and unlawful compulsion that induced him to act against his will. He could offer the common-law defense of necessity, and would have to prove that his lying under oath was to prevent a situation that threatened a harm greater than that resulting from the act of lying. The choice of evils defense, in jurisdictions that permit it, encompasses both duress and necessity.

If his defense is believed, it serves as a bar to prosecution. The fact-finder must generally find that the belief of the actor concerning the threat was both subjectively true and objectively reasonable.

  • Rick