UCMJ Article 131: PerjurY
A service member of the United States Armed Forces who is found to have lied while offering sworn testimony or while providing a written declaration or statement will be subject to conviction and sentencing under Article 131 of the UCMJ. You may believe the lie you told was harmless; that you lied to protect someone you care about; or maybe you assume that prosecutors have no way of discovering the lie. But all it takes is one witness or one new piece of evidence to come to light to seal your fate in front of a judge and jury.
- Perjury is a serious offense and you may be going to jail for a long time. Is it worth gambling your freedom on having an inexperienced defense attorney represent you?
- You’ve worked hard for your rank and position. It would be terrible to see the labors of that work disappear overnight.
- A punitive discharge guarantees the loss of your military retirement and your healthcare. The longer you’ve been in the military, the more you stand to lose if you’re found guilty.
What began as a lie—or accusations of a lie—could lead to the loss of all you hold dear. Do not put your future at risk. Fight back with the help of Bilecki & Tipon TODAY.
What Is Article 131 of the UCMJ?
Every punitive article of the UCMJ requires prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a handful of critical assumptions—known as elements—to convict you of a crime. Article 131 defines two separate offenses, each with its own set of elements.
- Giving false testimony
- That the accused took an oath or affirmation in a certain judicial proceeding or course of justice;
- That the oath or affirmation was administered to the accused in a matter in which an oath or affirmation was required or authorized by law;
- That the oath or affirmation was administered by a person having authority to do so;
- That upon the oath or affirmation the accused willfully gave certain testimony;
- That the testimony was material;
- That the testimony was false; and
- That the accused did not then believe the testimony to be true.
- Subscribing false statement
- That the accused subscribed a certain statement in a judicial proceeding or course of justice;
- That is the declaration, certification, verification, or statement under penalty of perjury, the accused declared, certified, verified, or stated the truth of that certain statement;
- That the accused willfully subscribed the statement;
- That the statement was material;
- That the statement was false; and
- That the accused did not then believe the statement to be true.
Summary of the Elements of Article 131: You may be convicted of perjury if you offered up in a sworn testimony or written declaration a statement which you knew at the time to be false. Prosecutors must, therefore, prove that a) the testimony was properly taken (i.e. authorized by law and administered by an authorized person), b) that the testimony or statement was material and therefore had direct bearing on the case at hand, and c) that you knew at the time that your statement or testimony was untrue.
Military Defense Attorney for Article 131 of the UCMJ: Strategies and Tactics
- Proper legal protocol. Was all sworn testimony properly taken? Did the individual who requested the sworn testimony have the authority to do so? Were all documents properly notarized?
- Nature of the statement or testimony. Does the statement or testimony have a material bearing on the outcome of the case in question? Would the outcome of the matter have been different if the accused had told the truth?
- Knowledge of false testimony. Did the accused know that he or she was lying at the time the sworn testimony or written statements were given? Was anything unclear about the question which could have elicited an incorrect statement?
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Article 131 UCMJ Articles
- Article 131a: Perjury, Subornation Of
- Article 131b: Obstructing Justice
- Article 131c: Misprision Of A Serious Offense
- Article 131d: Testify: Wrongful Refusal
- Article 131e: Seizure; Destruction, Removal, Or Disposal Of Property To Prevent
- Article 131g: Wrongful Interference With An Adverse Administrative Proceeding
Frequently Asked Questions About Article 131
What Is the Maximum Possible Punishment for Article 131: Perjury?
A service member convicted under Article 131 for charges of perjury is subject to a maximum sentence which includes:
- Reduction to E-1
- Forfeiture of all pay and allowances
- Confinement for 5 years
- Dishonorable discharge
I Perjured Myself for a Good Reason. Will This Influence My Case at All?
No. Prosecutors do not care why you perjured yourself. And your intentions for lying under oath are no defense for perjury. Whether you did so to protect a friend or were afraid to offer the truth out of fear for your safety is immaterial to your case.
Your defense team will still benefit from hearing your full story. But your intentions—however good or sincere—for lying under oath are not going to hold up in court.