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spratleyj
2008-Sep-06, 04:36 PM
I just thought of something the other day that's been bugging me... Before I discover physics I wanted to be a lawyer, so I guess you could say I have a decent amount of interest in law, and the like.... anyways if somebody was charged with something (say stealing a car) and they plead not guilty, but were convicted of the crime, couldn't they then be tried for perjury?
Anyways, I don't know if there are any lawyers on here, but if any of you know anything about this please enlighten me.

Lepton
2008-Sep-06, 04:39 PM
I just thought of something the other day that's been bugging me... Before I discover physics I wanted to be a lawyer, so I guess you could say I have a decent amount of interest in law, and the like.... anyways if somebody was charged with something (say stealing a car) and they plead not guilty, but were convicted of the crime, couldn't they then be tried for perjury?
Anyways, I don't know if there are any lawyers on here, but if any of you know anything about this please enlighten me.

Wouldn't that be trying them twice for the same crime?

tdvance
2008-Sep-06, 04:40 PM
I'd think the 5th amendment would prevent that--you have to enter a plea or have one entered on your behalf, but you cannot be forced to convict yourself. Thus, either it's not perjury or you can maintain the right to not enter a plea.

Also--do you enter your plea under oath? i don't know, my only trial being civil and I entered no plea. That would have an effect, since perjury is essentially lying under oath in court.

Finally, "not guilty" could be interpreted as "not proven guilty"--which is what it means when a jury gives that as a verdict. A plea of "not guilty" means nothing more than "you can't prove I did it, ha!"

geonuc
2008-Sep-06, 04:56 PM
tdvance hit on two key elements. You have a constitutional right to enter a not guilty plea and force the state to prove guilt. Also, the defendant is not under oath when making the plea. This assumes we're talking about US law.

lepton - No, that would not constitute double jeopardy. Because perjury is a distinct crime apart from whatever the perjury was protecting, the state can bring further charges if you lie under oath. The protections against double jeopardy are far more limited than what most non-lawyers think.

spratleyj
2008-Sep-06, 06:59 PM
tdvance hit on two key elements. You have a constitutional right to enter a not guilty plea and force the state to prove guilt. Also, the defendant is not under oath when making the plea. This assumes we're talking about US law.

lepton - No, that would not constitute double jeopardy. Because perjury is a distinct crime apart from whatever the perjury was protecting, the state can bring further charges if you lie under oath. The protections against double jeopardy are far more limited than what most non-lawyers think.


Okay, but suppose you were to testify and directly say that you didn't commit the crime - the you would be lying to the court... then let's say that your still found guilty, then couldn't you then be tried for perjury?

geonuc
2008-Sep-06, 10:10 PM
Okay, but suppose you were to testify and directly say that you didn't commit the crime - the you would be lying to the court... then let's say that your still found guilty, then couldn't you then be tried for perjury?
That's a better question. Technically, I don't know. Practically, no way would a prosecutor do that. The judge - who wields much power in this situation - probably would dismiss the charge. And no jury would convict. They'd see it as a complete waste of their time.

Aside from that, there may well be a legal theory to prevent it. We didn't cover this in law school.

Chuck
2008-Sep-06, 10:25 PM
I suppose the perjury charge might be used if the governor pardons you and then leaves office, and the next governor thinks you should be in jail. Or maybe if you're found not guilty but more evidence is found proving that you lied. You can't be recharged with the original crime but maybe you can be charged with lying in your trial. That might make a good television lawyer series episode unless perjury charges can't be filed against the defendant at all.

Jeff Root
2008-Sep-06, 10:29 PM
My impression is that politicians and celebrities convicted of crimes in
the last twenty years were almost all convicted for lying when they said
they didn't do anything wrong, not for actually doing anything wrong.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Sam5
2008-Sep-06, 10:32 PM
Okay, but suppose you were to testify and directly say that you didn't commit the crime - the you would be lying to the court... then let's say that your still found guilty, then couldn't you then be tried for perjury?

I think in some cases that could happen; however, it would cost the state/county/city/government more money to go through another trial for a matter that is considered to be a low-level crime. Chances are the judge would just add more time to the sentence for the original crime, to make up for the lying of the guilty party.

geonuc
2008-Sep-06, 10:35 PM
My impression is that politicians and celebrities convicted of crimes in
the last twenty years were almost all convicted for lying when they said
they didn't do anything wrong, not for actually doing anything wrong.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis
You're thinking of something quite different. People who lie during depositions or other circumstances under oath can face perjury charges and often it's easier to prove that than the underlying reason they were being investigated in the first place.

Although somewhat outside the normal legal system, a recent past US president was tried in the Senate for lying during a deposition. Similar situation.

geonuc
2008-Sep-06, 10:37 PM
I think in some cases that could happen; however, it would cost the state/county/city/government more money to go through another trial for a matter that is considered to be a low-level crime. Chances are the judge would just add more time to the sentence for the original crime, to make up for the lying of the guilty party.
No. Not if perjury charges are not on the table during the underlying criminal trial, which in this hypothetical they wouldn't be.

Sam5
2008-Sep-06, 10:48 PM
I'm not a lawyer, but I've covered a number of criminal cases as a journalist.

Seems to me that the US laws have changed recently. Now it is illegal to lie to a policeman or a federal agent, but when some people are questioned by a law enforcement investigator today, at the beginning of an investigation, they can lie to a citizen, but a citizen who is thought to be guilty is not allowed to lie and is often led to believe that if they don’t talk and tell the truth, they will be brought up on serious charges of “obstruction of justice”. Sometimes this involves a second party who might be guilty of something.

So, today, the citizen is put in a squeeze, since they are led to believe that if they “don’t talk” they will be charged with “obstruction of justice”, if they do talk and they lie they will be charged with “lying to a law enforcement officer”, and if they talk and confess, they’ll go right to jail with no trial at all.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obstruction_of_justice

novaderrik
2008-Sep-07, 12:15 AM
it's not the duty of the defendant to admit to doing a crime- it is the duty of the prosecuting attorney to prove that he did.
if someone pleads not guilty and is later found guilty, i'm sure that gets weighed into the sentence. i think you generally get a lesser sentence if you just admit it at the beginning so the lawyers and judge can get out of there and make their tee times..

geonuc
2008-Sep-07, 12:22 AM
it's not the duty of the defendant to admit to doing a crime- it is the duty of the prosecuting attorney to prove that he did.
if someone pleads not guilty and is later found guilty, i'm sure that gets weighed into the sentence. i think you generally get a lesser sentence if you just admit it at the beginning so the lawyers and judge can get out of there and make their tee times..
Yeah, sure. That's how it works.

spratleyj
2008-Sep-07, 02:03 AM
That's a better question. Technically, I don't know. Practically, no way would a prosecutor do that. The judge - who wields much power in this situation - probably would dismiss the charge. And no jury would convict. They'd see it as a complete waste of their time.

Aside from that, there may well be a legal theory to prevent it. We didn't cover this in law school.

Yeah, I've never heard of it happening before, but I was just wondering why. I mean if you have someone for a small crime like theft, but then they lie under oath, they could have a much longer stint in jail... I think perjury is usually 5-10+ years, while something like theft would probably be measured in days, if not probation. So I don't see why it would be a "waste of time".

Sam5
2008-Sep-07, 02:17 AM
Yeah, I've never heard of it happening before, but I was just wondering why. I mean if you have someone for a small crime like theft, but then they lie under oath, they could have a much longer stint in jail... I think perjury is usually 5-10+ years, while something like theft would probably be measured in days, if not probation. So I don't see why it would be a "waste of time".


The jails are all filled up with criminals as it is. I doubt if the state or county would be interested in putting a bunch of people in jail for a long time for "lying". :)

spratleyj
2008-Sep-07, 02:24 AM
I'm not suggested it should be pursed, just wondering a) if it's possible and b) if so why is it not used... But I don't think the government has any problem putting people away for lying, especially when concerning taxes, "terrorism", etc...

novaderrik
2008-Sep-07, 06:33 AM
Yeah, sure. That's how it works.
i admit, i might have skipped afew steps, but tee times are important.

geonuc
2008-Sep-07, 10:41 AM
I'm not suggested it should be pursed, just wondering a) if it's possible and b) if so why is it not used... But I don't think the government has any problem putting people away for lying, especially when concerning taxes, "terrorism", etc...
I disagree. Typically, the government is after people for bigger crimes but can't quite build a case. Juries are the same way. Your average twelve (or so) people aren't going to send Johnny up the river for lying if what he was lying about wasn't worth jail time. Typically.

spratleyj
2008-Sep-07, 03:23 PM
Well, it may be true that you would have a hard time, getting a jury to convict, but a jury isn't supposed to decide based on their own feelings, they're supposed to decide based upon the evidence, and if it's clear that somebody has committed perjury, I don't see how they could escape with no time...

But what I was asking is if it was possible for you to be tried in such case, if so could law enforcement use it in an improper way?

Sam5
2008-Sep-07, 04:19 PM
Well, it may be true that you would have a hard time, getting a jury to convict, but a jury isn't supposed to decide based on their own feelings, they're supposed to decide based upon the evidence, and if it's clear that somebody has committed perjury, I don't see how they could escape with no time...




It's not up to a jury to prosecute. It's up to the state. The state would not waste time prosecuting in 99.99% of the cases.

Sam5
2008-Sep-07, 04:26 PM
But what I was asking is if it was possible for you to be tried in such case, if so could law enforcement use it in an improper way?

The feds violated the Constitution by prosecuting the policemen who beat Rodney King.

They had already been found "not guilty" in a state court. The Constitution forbids a second prosecution for the same "offense". But the feds did prosecute the policemen for the same "offense" and sent them to prison. That's unconstitutional. The fed's excuse was that the federal Civil Rights law was a different law, but the original "offense" was "the beating of Rodney King", and the second prosecution was unconstitutional.

geonuc
2008-Sep-07, 04:38 PM
The feds violated the Constitution by prosecuting the policemen who beat Rodney King.

They had already been found "not guilty" in a state court. The Constitution forbids a second prosecution for the same "offense". But the feds did prosecute the policemen for the same "offense" and sent them to prison. That's unconstitutional. The fed's excuse was that the federal Civil Rights law was a different law, but the original "offense" was "the beating of Rodney King", and the second prosecution was unconstitutional.
No. That was what I was referring to when I said earlier that most people don't understand the limits of the double jeopardy rule. Each 'sovereign' has the option to prosecute. The federal government and the fifty states are all separate soveregns.

Sam5
2008-Sep-07, 04:56 PM
No. That was what I was referring to when I said earlier that most people don't understand the limits of the double jeopardy rule. Each 'sovereign' has the option to prosecute. The federal government and the fifty states are all separate soveregns.

There is no mention of “separate sovereigns” in the 5th Amendment. The clause is basic and simple to understand. In order to change it to include your “separate sovereign” rule, the Constitution must be amended.

5th Amendment, US Constitution:

V - Provisons concerning prosecution

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.

geonuc
2008-Sep-07, 08:03 PM
There is no mention of “separate sovereigns” in the 5th Amendment. The clause is basic and simple to understand. In order to change it to include your “separate sovereign” rule, the Constitution must be amended.

5th Amendment, US Constitution:

V - Provisons concerning prosecution

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.
It's not 'my rule'. It's the law. You may not like it, but that's the way it is.

Note: not everything in the US Constitution applies to both the federal and state governments.

Also, it should be said that federal and state law is different. The feds can't prosecute anything they want - only violations of federal law.

mugaliens
2008-Sep-07, 08:31 PM
I just thought of something the other day that's been bugging me... Before I discover physics I wanted to be a lawyer, so I guess you could say I have a decent amount of interest in law, and the like.... anyways if somebody was charged with something (say stealing a car) and they plead not guilty, but were convicted of the crime, couldn't they then be tried for perjury?
Anyways, I don't know if there are any lawyers on here, but if any of you know anything about this please enlighten me.

No. For any specific action, they can be charged for only one crime.

What I mean by "specific action" is the result, not the behavior. For example, if someone fires a gun into the air and the bullet falls back and kills someone, that person can be charged for both discharging a weapon within the city limits as well as involuntary manslaughter.

In your case, neither a conviction nor the lack thereof is justification in and of itself for trial.

However, if evidence uncovered during the trial is found to be afoul of the law, then that evidence can be used against you.

Jens
2008-Sep-08, 07:55 AM
anyways if somebody was charged with something (say stealing a car) and they plead not guilty, but were convicted of the crime, couldn't they then be tried for perjury?


I think that there is a difference between "I plead not guilty" and "I didn't do it," and they may be part of the issue here. "Plead" means "beg," not "claim." So "I plead not guilty" really means "I beg you to find me not guilty." So it's not a statement of truth. For example, you can "plead" not guilty "due to insanity" or "due to self-defense". I think that's why it couldn't constitute perjury, but I'm not all that sure.

geonuc
2008-Sep-08, 11:17 AM
I think that there is a difference between "I plead not guilty" and "I didn't do it," and they may be part of the issue here. "Plead" means "beg," not "claim." So "I plead not guilty" really means "I beg you to find me not guilty." So it's not a statement of truth. For example, you can "plead" not guilty "due to insanity" or "due to self-defense". I think that's why it couldn't constitute perjury, but I'm not all that sure.
I'd caution against applying standard meaning to legal terms - it often doesn't work.

A plea is a formal answer to charges.

Jens
2008-Sep-08, 01:48 PM
I'd caution against applying standard meaning to legal terms - it often doesn't work.

A plea is a formal answer to charges.

OK, but what I get from reading around is that in an adversarial system, pleading "not guilty" is the normal thing to do, and it is rather pleading "guilty" that is the exception. In the US, if you want to plead "guilty", the judge has to read a bunch of articles to make sure that you are doing so rationally. The definite conclusion is that a suspect is expected to plead not guilty, and that you could never be accused of perjury for that. Everything I have read reinforces this, that even if you know you are guilty of a crime, you are expected to plead not guilty, and have nothing at all to fear in terms of perjury.

geonuc
2008-Sep-08, 02:14 PM
OK, but what I get from reading around is that in an adversarial system, pleading "not guilty" is the normal thing to do, and it is rather pleading "guilty" that is the exception. In the US, if you want to plead "guilty", the judge has to read a bunch of articles to make sure that you are doing so rationally. The definite conclusion is that a suspect is expected to plead not guilty, and that you could never be accused of perjury for that. Everything I have read reinforces this, that even if you know you are guilty of a crime, you are expected to plead not guilty, and have nothing at all to fear in terms of perjury.
Everything you say is correct, except that the most compelling legal reason you can't be charged with perjury for a plea is that the defendant is not under oath when pleading.

A 'not guilty' plea does not mean "I'm not guilty of the charges". In legal terms, it means, essentially, "I exercise my right to require the state to prove I am guilty of the charges". As opposed to a guilty plea, which means "I admit the truth of the charges and waive my right to require the state to prove my guilt".

spratleyj
2008-Sep-09, 12:04 AM
Yeah, well that's not the question... I was asking if the about a case in which the defendent testifies (under oath) and says they didn't commit a crime, later they're convicted of the crime - why can't they be tried for perjury?

Chuck
2008-Sep-09, 02:46 PM
The original conviction doesn't mean the defendant committed the crime. It means the jury thinks he did beyond a reasonable doubt. He could actually be innocent. To prove perjury it would have to be proven to another jury that he was guilty of the original crime. If he were found not guilty of perjury then the state would find itself in the position of imprisoning someone whose claim of innocence was believed by the second jury.

Fazor
2008-Sep-09, 05:40 PM
Yeah, well that's not the question... I was asking if the about a case in which the defendent testifies (under oath) and says they didn't commit a crime, later they're convicted of the crime - why can't they be tried for perjury?

Well, they can't *force* you to testify on your guilt or innocense while under oath. Hopefully you have some half-competant representation that would stop you from doing so.

Secondly, it'd be easy enough to argue that you claimed you did not commit the specific charge. I.e., if you're being tried for First Degree murder charges, you could say you did not do it, then argue that you instead felt you commited second degree manslaughter, or something.

Lastly, as long as you have appeals left, then it would still be hard to prove that you did indeed lie. At least, if it were me, I'd make the argument that if there's still enough doubt for me to be allowed to appeal the decision then there's too much doubt to convict me for lieing. I'm not a lawyer so I don't know if that'd hold up anyway.

Anecdotal - I don't believe its that uncommon for defendants to blurt out "I didn't do nothin'!" (usually worded as such) when they do end up on the stand. After the lawyer has a heart attack because he's advised you over and over not to say anything except direct answers to the direct questions, the trial continues. I've never heard of anyone subsequently being found guilty and then brought up on purjury charges. I'd think as often as people proclaim their innocense, we'd have heard of it if it happens. Of course the questions was if it could happen...not if it does. *shrug*

Larry Jacks
2008-Sep-09, 05:47 PM
Yeah, well that's not the question... I was asking if the about a case in which the defendent testifies (under oath) and says they didn't commit a crime, later they're convicted of the crime - why can't they be tried for perjury?

I suspect that for most crimes, the conviction carries a stiffer penalty than perjury. If that's the case, then it'd be a waste of time and court resources to try the defendent again on a lessor charge.

Moose
2008-Sep-09, 06:52 PM
As I understand it, perjury charges are mainly used in cases where lying has implications. They wouldn't do it for, say, a hood lying about an assault, but a professional witness caught lying where it impacts a defendant might be more likely to face a charge.