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Penal Code Section 118 PC: California Penalty of “Perjury” Law

Douglas Parker

Have you heard about California’s Penal Code 118? It’s essential to understand if you or someone you know is facing legal issues related to perjury. In simple words, perjury means lying under oath. It’s a serious crime and California takes it quite seriously. This article will dive into what Penal Code 118 really means, how it punishes those found guilty, and the legal defenses available.

Perjury isn’t just making a mistake or forgetting something during a testimony. It involves intentionally making false statements while swearing to tell the truth. Whether during a court case, in written documents, or in other official settings, lying under such circumstances can lead to significant legal consequences. We’ll explain the key elements that define perjury under California law, outline the penalties, and discuss how attorneys build defenses for such charges.

Understanding California’s Penal Code 118: Defining Perjury

When someone talks about Penal Code 118 in California, they are referring to the laws that define and deal with perjury. Perjury is when a person deliberately lies after promising to tell the truth, often in a court setting [1]. This isn’t about small white lies or mistakes; it’s about big, intentional lies that can change decisions in serious matters like trials.

Key Elements of Penal Code 118

The law breaks down perjury into several key elements to identify if someone’s actions fit the crime. First, the false statement must have been made while the person was under oath. Second, the statement must be about something important related to the situation at hand.

Third, it has to be proven that the person knew the statement was false and intended to deceive by making it. Each part is crucial in determining whether an act of perjury has actually happened, according to California PC 118 [2].

penal code 118

Distinctions Between Perjury and False Statements

There’s a thin line between what counts as perjury and what’s considered just a false statement. The major difference lies in the formal declaration. Perjury occurs strictly in settings where a legal oath has been taken to tell the truth. Making a false statement [3] outside such settings, even if dishonest, may not always be treated as perjury under the law.

Classification of Perjury as a Misdemeanor or Felony

In California, perjury is usually classified as a felony. This means it’s seen as a more serious crime compared with misdemeanors and comes with heavier penalties. Recognizing the classification helps in understanding the severity of the charge and its potential impact on someone’s life.

Penalties for Committing Perjury Under Penal Code 118

Facing a perjury charge can lead to some severe penalties. It’s important we understand both the immediate and long-lasting consequences of being found guilty of this crime.

If convicted of perjury under Penal Code 118, a person could face up to four years in state prison. These penalties [4] reflect how seriously the law takes the trust placed in individuals who swear to tell the truth. The exact sentence can vary based on the details of the case and the presence of any aggravating factors.

Perjury Jail Time and Other Legal Repercussions

Apart from prison time, being convicted of perjury can result in additional legal repercussions. These might include fines, community service, and probation. Moreover, having a felony conviction on one’s record can significantly affect future opportunities, such as employment prospects [5], and the right to vote or possess firearms, underscoring the extensive impact of perjury beyond jail time.

Understanding these elements and consequences of Penal Code 118 is key for anyone involved in legal proceedings in California. It highlights the importance of honesty in legal settings and the substantial penalties for disregarding this responsibility.

Defense Strategies Against Perjury Charges

When someone is charged with perjury under Penal Code 118, it’s important to know there are several defenses that can be effectively used in court. Knowing these defenses can be a lifeline in tough legal situations.

One common defense is the lack of intent to deceive. This involves proving that the individual believed their statement was true at the time it was made and did not intentionally provide false information.

Another defense is the irrelevance of the statement, where the false statement did not actually affect the outcome of the case in which it was made. These defenses require a deep understanding of both the law and the specific circumstances of the case.

Role of Evidence in Proving Innocence

Evidence plays a crucial role in defending against a perjury charge. This might include emails, documents, or other communications [6] that support the accused’s belief that their statements were truthful at the time they were made. It’s also possible to challenge the evidence presented by the prosecution to prove the statement was false. Successfully disputing the accuracy or validity of the prosecution’s evidence can be key to overturning a perjury charge.

Legal Support and Resources for Penal Code 118 Charges

Facing a perjury charge can be daunting, and it’s not something you should handle alone. Access to knowledgeable legal support is critical in navigating these complex situations. An experienced criminal defense attorney is invaluable when dealing with perjury charges. They can help interpret the law, gather and present evidence, and employ effective defense strategies. An attorney understands the serious implications of a perjury charge and works diligently to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome.

If you or someone you know is facing accusations of perjury, reaching out for legal help immediately is vital. At Manshoory Law, we offer free consultations to discuss your case and understand how we can assist you better. Contact us to find out more about your rights and what steps can be taken to defend against the charges.

Dealing with a perjury charge under Penal Code 118 can be extremely challenging, but having the right information and legal support can make all the difference. Understanding the law, knowing the defenses available, and having an expert to navigate the legal waters are key components to handling these charges effectively.


  1. Perjury | Office of Justice Programs. (n.d.).

  2. Manshoory, S. (2022, December 06). Can you go to jail for false accusations? | Manshoory Law. Manshoory Law Group, APC.

  3. 1761. Perjury cases — sentencing issues. (2020, January 17).

  4. Manshoory, S. (2023, September 20). How to get a job with a criminal record in California? | Manshoory Law. Manshoory Law Group, APC.

  5. Parker, D. (2024, March 7). What is Digital Evidence in Criminal Trials? | Manshoory Law. Manshoory Law Group, APC.