UCMJ Article 131
According to the Manual for Courts-Martial, any service member may be subject to prosecution if, in a judicial proceeding or in a course of justice willfully and corruptly, they:
- upon a lawful oath or in any form allowed by law to be substituted for an oath, gives any false testimony material to the issue or matter of inquiry; or
- in any declaration, certificate, verification, or statement under penalty of perjury as permitted under section 1746 of title 28, subscribes any false statement material to the issue or matter of inquiry.
In order to be convicted for giving false testimony, the prosecution must demonstrate that:
- the accused took an oath or affirmation in a certain judicial proceeding or course of justice;
- the oath or affirmation was administered to the accused in a matter in which an oath or affirmation was required or authorized by law;
- the oath or affirmation was administered by a person having authority to do so;
- upon the oath or affirmation that accused willfully gave certain testimony;
- the testimony was material;
- the testimony was false; and
- the accused did not then believe the testimony to be true.
A conviction for subscribing false statement requires the prosecution to prove that:
- the accused subscribed a certain statement in a judicial proceeding or course of justice;
- in the declaration, certification, verification, or statement under penalty of perjury, the accused declared, certified, verified, or stated the truth of that certain statement;
- the accused willfully subscribed the statement;
- the statement was material;
- the statement was false; and
- the accused did not then believe the statement to be true.
Understanding Article 131 (Perjury) of the UCMJ
The act of giving false testimony can only be committed during a judicial proceeding. Judicial proceeding includes a trial by court-martial, and course of justice includes preliminary hearings conducted under Article 32. If the accused is charged with having committed perjury before a court-martial, it must be shown that the court-martial was duly constituted.
When giving false testimony, the testimony must be false and must be willfully and corruptly given; that is, it must be proved that the accused gave the false testimony willfully and did not believe it to be true. A witness may commit perjury by testifying to the truth of a matter when in fact the witness knows nothing about it at all or is not sure about it, whether the thing is true or false in fact. A witness may also commit perjury in testifying falsely as to a belief, remembrance, or impression, or as to a judgment or opinion. It is no defense that the witness voluntarily appeared, that the witness was incompetent as a witness, or that the testimony was given in response to questions that the witness could have declined to answer.
The false testimony must be with respect to a material matter, but that matter need not be the main issue in the case. Thus, perjury may be committed by giving false testimony with respect to the credibility of a material witness or in an affidavit in support of a request for a continuance, as well as by giving false testimony with respect to a fact from which a legitimate inference may be drawn as to the existence or nonexistence of a fact in issue.
The falsity of the allegedly perjured statement cannot be proved by circumstantial evidence alone, except with respect to matters which by their nature are not susceptible of direct proof. The falsity of the statement cannot be proved by the testimony of a single witness unless that testimony directly contradicts the statement and is corroborated by other evidence either direct or circumstantial, tending to prove the falsity of the statement. However, documentary evidence directly disproving the truth of the statement charged to have been perjured need not be corroborated if: the document is an official record shown to have been well known to the accused at the time the oath was taken; or the documentary evidence originated from the accused—or had in any manner been recognized by the accused as containing the truth—before the allegedly perjured statement was made.
The oath must be one recognized or authorized by law and must be duly administered by one authorized to administer it. When a form of oath has been prescribed, a literal following of that form is not essential; it is sufficient if the oath administered conforms in substance to the prescribed form. Oath includes an affirmation when the latter is authorized in lieu of an oath.
The fact that the accused did not believe the statement to be true may be proved by testimony of one witness without corroboration or by circumstantial evidence.
In regard to subscribing false statement, the signing must take place in a judicial proceeding or course of justice. It is not required that the document be sworn before a third party.
Maximum Possible Punishment for Violations of Article 131
Service members convicted of an Article 131 violation for perjury face a maximum possible punishment of a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 5 years.
How do you defend against Article 131 Perjury charges?
When you are facing the combined resources of the military as well as the current cultural climate, you need to be prepared to defend your career and your freedom. Crisp and Associates, LLC has a team of experienced trial attorneys, with more than 75 years of combined experience, who have won these types of cases. This team includes the firm’s founder, Jonathan Crisp, a highly respected and sought-after attorney, speaker, and lecturer, who has served in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG) since 1998 and entered private practice in 2007.
If you, or someone you know, is facing Article 131 charges for Perjury, you need to speak with a Military defense attorney right away. We understand what is at risk, and we know how to protect your career, your freedom, and your future. Please call Crisp and Associates Military at 888-258-1653 for a free consultation.
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