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NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 49 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2012 Pages: 1079-1106
Melissa Gohlke; Mikaela Cavalli
Date Published
28 pages
This article reviews the three Federal statutes that criminalize perjury: sections 1621, 1622, and 1623 of 18 U.S.C.
Section 1621, the broadest of the three perjury statutes, applies to all material statements or information provided under oath to "a competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any case in which a law of the United States authorizes an oath to be administered." Section 1621 has withstood constitutional challenges for vagueness and has been applied in a variety of situations that fall under the broad purview of the statute. Courts have broadly construed the phrase, "before a competent tribunal, officer, or person." The competency of a tribunal is not compromised for purposes of section 1621 because it lacks diversity or subject-matter jurisdiction; nor is a tribunal incompetent because the statutory offense that formed the basis of the proceedings was imperfectly pleaded, based on a defective indictment, or later found to be unconstitutional. Section 1622 criminalizes the subornation of perjury. It prohibits convincing another to commit "any perjury," whether under the requirements of sections 1621 or 1623; however, the Government must prove different elements to secure a section 1622 conviction, depending on whether the defendant is being charged with suborning perjury under section 1621 or section 1623. Section 1623 relates to perjury before a grand jury. Unlike section 1621, section 1623 is not limited to willfully submitted false testimony. It merely requires that the defendant made a statement that he/she knew to be false at the time it was made. The Government can meet this burden by using either circumstantial or direct evidence; however, proving knowledge of falsity is difficult if the prosecutor's questioning of the witness was ambiguous. Defenses to charges brought under the perjury statutes are also discussed, along with sentencing. 180 notes