Perjury in Michigan is treated as a serious offense because it attacks the integrity of the judicial system. Without question persons have been falsely convicted and imprisoned on the basis of lies and deceit, and providing an effective deterrent to such behavior is necessary. However, perjury charges sometimes come about as retaliation for failing to testify in a manner consistent with the Prosecution’s theory of the case. With Prosecutors there is always a balancing in these matters between gaining conviction, not deterring witnesses from stepping forward to testify, preserving the integrity of the system, protecting law enforcement or maintaining a relationship with law enforcement, and the interests of justice.
To prove Perjury beyond a reasonable doubt the prosecution must establish that:
1) The Defendant was legally required to take an oath in a proceeding in a court of justice. An Oath is a solemn promise to tell the truth;
2) The Defendant took that oath;
3) While under that oath the Defendant made a false statement.
4) The Defendant knew that that statement was false when he or she made it.
The punishment for Perjury depends upon the nature of the matter in which the perjury occurred. If the Perjury is Committed Concerning a Capital Offense (a crime with a possible maximum punishment of life), the possible punishment which a Prosecutor can pursue is life in prison under Michigan Compiled Law (MCL) 750.422 and MCL 767A.9. If the Perjury is Committed Concerning a Noncapital Offense, the maximum punishment is for this felony offense is 15 years in prison under MCL 750 .422 and MCL 767A.9. According to MCL 750.423 any person authorized by any statute of this state to take an oath, or any person of whom an oath shall be required by law, who shall willfully swear falsely, in regard to any matter or thing, respecting which such oath is authorized or required, shall be guilty of perjury, a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not more than 15 years.
Making efforts to get someone to lie under oath is called Subornation of Perjury, and this is a 15 years maximum felony under MCL 750.424. Attempting to get someone else to commit perjury is also a felony, even when the testimony is not offered. Inciting or Procuring Perjury but Perjury not Committed under MCL 750.425 is a felony offense that carries a possible maximum punishment of 5 years in prison.
There are several offenses related to Perjury that involve attempts to undermine the judicial process. Tampering with Evidence or Offering False Evidence, pursuant to MCL 750.483a(6)(a), is a 4 year maximum felony in Michigan. However, when the maximum punishment for the potential underlying offense carries a possible punishment of over 10 years the offense becomes a 10 year maximum felony pursuant to MCL 750.483a(6)(b). Tampering with Evidence or Offering False Evidence is also sometimes referred to as Obstructing Justice or Obstruction of Justice.
Under MCL 750.483a(1) it is illegal to do any of the following: withhold or refuse to produce testimony, information, document, or thing after the Court has ordered it to be produced; prevent or attempt to prevent through the unlawful use of physical force another person from reporting a crime committed or attempted by another person; retaliate or attempt to retaliate against another person for having reported or attempted to report a crime committed or attempted by another person. Retaliate means to either to commit a crime against another person, attempt to commit a crime against another person, threaten to kill or injure any person, or threaten to cause property damage. This offense, which is often referred to as Witness Intimidation, can be prosecuted as a 1 year misdemeanor or up to a 10 year felony depending upon the circumstances. Bribery is giving someone something of value to influence their testimony. Bribing or Intimidating a Witness, under MCL 750.122(7) can also be prosecuted as a 4 year or a 10 year maximum penalty depending upon the punishment for the offense that the witness is testifying to.
According to MCL 750.483a(7) an affirmative defense to promising anything of value or threatening or intimidating a person concerning a person’ statement to a police officer is that the conduct was lawful and the Defendant’s intent was to encourage, induce, or cause another person to provide a truthful statement or truthful evidence. As an affirmative defense, the Defendant has the burden to prove this defense by a preponderance of the evidence.
Perjury is different from Filing a False Police Report because a statement to a police officer is not a sworn statement. A False Report of a Felony is a 4 year felony pursuant to MCL 750.411a(1)(b). A False Report of a Misdemeanor is a 93 day misdemeanor pursuant to MCL 750.411a(1)(a). Communicating False Information to another person can become a 10 year felony if there is a prior conviction for the same activity. Punishment can also include paying back law enforcement for their expenditures for investigating or responding to the false report. If the offender is a juvenile, the parents (including foster parents and legal guardians) can be required to pay back law enforcement for the false report made by the juvenile who they are responsible for. A False Report of a Child Abduction is a 4 year felony according to MCL 28.754.
From time to time an individual will allege that a police officer committed perjury, provided a false police report, intimidated witnesses, and/or tampered with evidence. It is rare for a Prosecutor to pursue charges against a police officer for any of this. The perspective of the Prosecutor’s office is that they have to have a working relationship with the police officers and police department and will not pursue the misconduct, or that the false information was accidental or unintentional, or that in their perspective the police officer was being truthful despite any inconsistency, or that any alleged witness tampering by the police was only an effort to get the witness to attend Court and be truthful. These discrepancies when found prior to trial can be the basis for an acquittal at trial. When the discrepancy is found after a trial, the Defendant can pursue a motion for a new trial or to set aside the conviction. If the inaccuracy is not material to the issues at trial, it is likely that such motions will be denied.