A case in Mineral Wells, TX, brings to light the different laws surrounding perjury in the state. The case involves a local ammunition manufacturer and the mayor of the city, who were both indicted by a grand jury for perjury.
Before we look at the exact definition of perjury, let’s examine the above-mentioned case in the town of Mineral Wells.
The Case In Mineral Wells
In this specific case, the owner of an ammunition manufacturing company, along with the mayor, lied during testimony to the local appraisal review board. This testimony was directly responsible for convincing the board to lower the property value of the ammunition companies building.
By lying during official and sworn testimony, both the company owner and the mayor committed perjury. So, where does the addition of the word “aggravated” in the charge come from? Let’s take a look at the legal definition of perjury to get a better understanding of the charge.
What Is “Perjury” in Texas?
According to the Texas Penal Code, a person can commit perjury in one of two different ways:
- they make a false statement under oath or swear to the truth of a false statement previously made and the statement is required or authorized by law to be made under oath
- they make a false unsworn declaration under Chapter 132, Civil Practice and Remedies Code
Perjury is a class A misdemeanor in the state of Texas, the highest misdemeanor level that a person can be charged with. It carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000.
Let’s look at a real-world example of this to get a better idea of what this means:
Stephen is applying to work for the government. He really wants the job and twists the truth a bit on his application. Even though he didn’t graduate from university, he writes down that he has a degree from the University of Texas to impress his potential boss.
Because this is an application for a government job, and therefore being reviewed by a government employee, Stephen has now committed perjury.
Now that you understand perjury, it’s time for the next question: what exactly can the addition of “aggravated” do to the charge?
What Is Aggravated Perjury in Texas?
In this case, it is used with the charge of perjury to clarify the more severe form of the crime.
According to the Texas Penal Code, aggravated perjury happens when a person commits perjury in the following circumstance:
- in connection with an official proceeding
- is material
Material, in this case, means that a statement can have a direct impact on the outcome of a case.
Aggravated perjury is classified as a third-degree felony that comes with a penalty of 2-10 years in state prison and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Continuing on the example above of Stephen, let’s look at aggravated perjury in the real world:
Stephen is the lone patron at a bar during a robbery. He later discovers that the man who robbed the establishment was his brother-in-law. Not wanting to incriminate his relative, Stephen decides to lie on the stand. During the trial, Stephen claims that he didn’t see the robbery as he was in the bathroom, even though security footage shows him sitting by the door.
Stephen has now committed aggravated perjury. As a witness to the crime, his testimony would have had a direct impact on the outcome of the trial. However, he decided to lie during the trial instead, which is a felony.
Final Thoughts on Texas Aggravated Perjury
It is important to remember that the charge of perjury becomes aggravated when the lie is told in the course of a trial and the lie or omission is material.
In the state of Texas, being charged with perjury alone can potentially land you in a state jail and responsible for a fine. The more severe charge of aggravated perjury, however, means that you are guaranteed to spend a few years in state prison.
There are exceptions to this, and ways that you can still defend yourself, but your best option if charged is to start working with an experienced Texas criminal attorney as soon as possible.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.