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The court system has become similar to a professional sport in a sense that the room is dominated by professionals who have dedicated their lives and careers to the mastery of the art of practicing law. It is difficult and frightening for the average citizen to step into the “arena” of law. Particularly when testifying as a witness under oath. The reason behind this is that when a witness introduces a piece of evidence under oath, it is immediately considered truth and cannot be reversed. People are not perfect, so what happens if one is to forget a minor detail or cannot recall the answer to the question entirely? Can that person be charged with perjury?
According to attorney Paul Meissner from the law officers of Carlson & Meissner, an individual can in fact be convicted of perjury by claiming to not remember if certain circumstances are fulfilled. If it can be proven that a witness under oath who claimed to now know the answer does in fact know the answer, but is simply claiming a lapse of memory in order to protect the prosecution, then that person can be charged with perjury.
If a person genuinely does not recall a fact, then it is safe to assume that they cannot be charged with perjury. However, it is important to note here that a person is called to the stand only if a side believes that they have information that will help their case. If they have a reason to believe this, then a good lawyer will do everything in their power to extract that information. Furthermore the cross-examination from the other side will do anything in their power to discredit whatever a witness says. The witness in this case is not a “player on the field” in this situation but rather the ball and both sides have already calculated an entire game-plan on how they intend to score. Claiming not to know will only work to slow them down.
The penalty of perjury varies between states, but is considered very serious in all of them. Perjury is categorized as a felony. The penalties that a person could face include: fines, imprisonment up to seven years, or both. Honesty is the best avenue of approach in the court of law. One should never take the stand with intentions of deception, because they are only putting themselves at risk.
When under oath, it is important for a witness to take their time and ensure that the answer they provide is accurate, honest, and correct. As mentioned previously, the pressure of court gets into one’s head. Judges recognize this, and may provide breaks upon request in order to give the witness a chance to catch their breath, clear their thoughts, and reduce the possibility of error so that they case may be carried on. The legal system is not designed to persecute witnesses. Therefore, there are measures in place that are meant to assist the witness with making their testimony. There is absolutely no shame in taking one’s time in order to ensure that a testimony is delivered correctly. In fact, it is actually recommended, because a witness only gets one chance to testify. There is no “do-over” or second chance.