Why aren't all criminals also guilty of perjury?

That is, when someone pleads “not guilty” and they are found to be guilty, why are they not also charged with perjury? I mean, they lied in court!

Perjury applies to lying under oath, and I don’t believe you’re considered to be under oath when you enter your plea. Since most defendants don’t testify at their own trials, they are not guilty of perjury. That’s a WAG.

First of all said criminal was not under oath at the time he proclaimed that he was not guilty.

Second, perjury in general is rarely pursued.

I’m not a lawyer, but could the reason be that the plea is not sworn testimony?

Perjury means roughly ‘falsifying one’s oath’, that is the oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but. But a plea is not made under oath, and so lacks this essential element of the crime of perjury.

Ehm - fifth amendment ?

IANAL, but: Yup, they lied or at least were silent. Besides it being rather unrealistic to expect people to witness against themselves (“If I confess, I get 10 years. If I don’t confess, I might walk or I might get 10 years and an additional six months for perjury. This is a tough decision how ?”), it’s part of the concept of “fair trial” that the accused be given every possibility to defend himself.

“Without a reasonable doubt” should mean that the accused can use any means to introduce doubt - even lying - without fear of retribution.

It’s part and parcel of a fair trial, IMHO.

S. Norman

No, that’s not so. The Fifth Amendment prevents a person from being forced to testify against themselves. If they choose to testify, they may not lie under oath, and if they do, they are guilty of perjury.

The plea of ‘not guilty’ does, standing alone, constitute perjury in any way. As other posters have observed, it’s not a statement made under oath, nor is it necessarily a claim of innocence. It is simply a plea that forces the government to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, every element of the crime charged.

So “all criminals” would not be guilty of perjury. But criminals that chose to testify in their own defense, and lied, would be guilty of perjury.

Why isn’t it prosecuted? Unless a prosecutor can point to two different statements under oath, mutually contradicting each other, it’s a hard charge on which to get a conviction. The typical reasoning is that the punishment comes for the original crime, and self-help testimony, even though not credited by the jury, shouldn’t trigger perjury charges.

  • Rick