What Is Perjury, And Is It Illegal In Florida?
A former lawyer for George Zimmerman was arrested recently on charges of solicitation to commit perjury in an unrelated criminal case. The lawyer has also been charged with harassing a witness victim. Initial reports indicate that Mr. Hal Ulhrig attempted to badger a victim of child rape and her father into lying under oath and recanting her previous statement made to the State’s Attorney regarding the charges against his client. Prosecutors believe Mr. Ulhrig was motivated to keep his client out of jail, but his actions are illegal, and it is unclear if any disciplinary action will be taken by the Florida State Bar Examiners regarding his license to practice law. This begs the question, what is solicitation to commit perjury, and how can one perjure oneself?
What is Perjury and Solicitation to Commit Perjury?
In Florida, perjury is defined by statute as making a false statement that the person knows to be untrue, under oath in an official proceeding, including a deposition or in court. A defendant convicted of perjury is charged with a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, five years probation and an additional fine. If a person makes a false statement in an official proceeding related to capital felony charges, the defendant can be sentenced to a second degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in prison, fifteen years probation and a fine. Even if the defendant does not believe what they stated was material to the official proceeding, that is not a defense to perjury.
Solicitation to commit perjury means that a defendant allegedly attempted to coerce or convince another person to commit perjury in an official proceeding. Florida Statute 777.04 defines solicitation as an act to command, encourage, hire or request another person to engage in criminal behavior or conduct. A defendant can be charged with solicitation of any criminal crime if there is probable cause to establish he or she attempted to convince another person to commit a crime, or conspired with another person to commit a crime.
What is Perjury in an Unofficial Proceeding?
In Florida, perjury in an unofficial proceeding is defined as a false statement made under oath (that the person making the statement knows to be untrue) in an unofficial proceeding. Fla. Stat. §837.012. A defendant convicted of perjury in an unofficial proceeding is sentenced to first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail. Any proceeding that does not take place before a judge, magistrate, commissioner, notary, or during a deposition would be considered unofficial.
One potential defense to the crime of perjury is recantation. If the person who perjured themselves goes on to correct or recant their statement concurrently, and the false statement they made does not significantly alter the outcome of the proceedings, it is an affirmative defense. However, recantation must take place immediately following the utterance of the false statement otherwise the person is exposed to criminal charges for making a false statement on the record.
Call Tampa Defense Attorney Bryant Scriven Today
If you or someone you know has been charged with perjury or solicitation to commit perjury, call Tampa criminal lawyer Bryant Scriven. With proven experience as a former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, handling both federal and state level charges, Attorney Scriven is dedicated to protecting his clients. He offers no-nonsense candid advice and understands what is on the line for his clients. Call today to schedule a free consultation.