CRS 18-8-503 defines second-degree perjury in Colorado as lying under oath in order to mislead a public servant. A class 2 misdemeanor, 2nd-degree perjury carries up to 120 days in jail and/or up to $750 in fines. Potential defenses are that the defendant had no intent to mislead, or that the false statement was immaterial.
CRS 18-8-503 states:
(1) A person commits perjury in the second degree if, other than in an official proceeding, with an intent to mislead a public servant in the performance of his duty, he makes a materially false statement, which he does not believe to be true, under an oath required or authorized by law.
(2) Perjury in the second degree is a class 2 misdemeanor.
In this article, our Colorado criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is second-degree perjury in Colorado?
- 2. What is the difference from first-degree perjury?
- 3. What is the penalty under CRS 18-8-503?
- 4. How can I fight the charge?
- 5. Can immigrants be deported for it?
- 6. Can the criminal record be sealed?
- 7. Related crimes
1. What is second-degree perjury in Colorado?
Second-degree perjury is making a material lie under oath for the purpose of influencing a public servant, and the lie does not occur in an official proceeding such as a trial or deposition.1
Example: Ben fills out an application for welfare benefits. He knowingly includes false financial information in an effort to get the Welfare Office – a public service – to give him bigger checks. Ben signs the document “under penalty of perjury.” Since Ben told a material lie in an effort to influence government officials’ decisions – and since this lie did not occur during an official proceeding – Ben could face 2nd-degree perjury charges.
For a lie to have materiality, it must have the potential of benefiting the alleged perjurer.2 Had Ben in the above example lied about a minor detail that would not affect his welfare prospects, then it should not rise to the level of perjury.
2. What is the difference from first-degree perjury?
Any material lie under oath at an official proceeding – such as a deposition or court hearing – is considered first-degree perjury (CRS 18-8-502) in Colorado. This is true even if the alleged perjurer lied to mislead a public servant.3
Example: During a rape trial, a witness lies about being the defendant’s alibi. The witness’s intent is to mislead the prosecutor – a public servant – into dismissing the charges. Since the context is a court proceeding, this false statement qualifies as first-degree perjury instead of second-degree perjury.
Had the witness in the above example lied under oath during a meeting in the D.A.’s office instead of during an official proceeding, then the lie would be considered second-degree perjury. That is because the meeting was not an official proceeding, and the witness still intended to mislead the prosecutor by lying under oath.
3. What is the penalty under CRS 18-8-503?
Second-degree perjury in Colorado is a class 2 misdemeanor, carrying:
- Up to 120 days in jail, and/or
- A fine of up to $750 4
Note that first-degree perjury is a class 4 felony, carrying:
- 2 to 6 years in Colorado State Prison, and/or
- A fine ranging from $2,000 to $500,0005
4. How can I fight the charge?
In Colorado, four possible defenses in 2nd-degree perjury cases include:
- The defendant had no intent to mislead a public servant;
- The defendant believed everything he/she said was accurate;
- What the defendant said was in fact accurate; or
- None of the defendant’s false statements were material.6
Ultimately, the burden falls on the district attorney to prove guilt for violating Colorado perjury laws beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense attorney’s job is to show prosecutors that their evidence is too inadequate to sustain a conviction should the case go to trial. If the prosecutors agree that their case is too weak, the charge could be dismissed.
5. Can immigrants be deported for it?
Perjury offenses can be classified as crimes involving moral turpitude, which are deportable.7 Therefore, non-citizens charged with lying under oath should retain experienced counsel in an effort to dismiss the criminal case. Learn about the criminal defense of immigrants in Colorado.
6. Can the criminal record be sealed?
Yes. Under Colorado law, second-degree perjury convictions are sealable two (2) years after the case closes. And there is no wait to get a seal if the court dismisses the charges.8 Learn more about sealing Colorado criminal records.
7. Related crimes
7.1. False swearing
Lying under oath in contexts not qualifying as perjury is prosecuted as false swearing (CRS 18-8-504). Therefore, false swearing does not involve official proceedings or an intention to mislead a public servant. A petty offense, false swearing carries up to 10 days in county jail and/or up to $300 in fines.9
7.2. False reporting of a crime
Furnishing inaccurate information to law enforcement about criminal activity is prosecuted as false reporting of a crime (CRS 18-8-110). An example is filing a false police report. A “wobbler” offense, false reporting of a crime may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case.11
7.3. False affidavit
Knowingly making a false statement to the Department of Motor Vehicles is prosecuted as making a false affidavit (CRS 42-2-137). An example is putting inaccurate driving record information on a license application. A class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense, making a false affidavit carries 10 to 90 days in jail and/or $150 to $300 in fines.10
Are you facing perjury charges? Our criminal defense lawyers are here to help. We practice throughout Colorado, including Denver, Greeley, Colorado Springs, Arapahoe County, and more. We defend against all types of criminal charges from DUI / DWAI, domestic violence, and sex crimes to restraining order violations, tampering, and criminally negligent homicide.
See our related article, What is Colorado’s statute of limitations for perjury?
- Colorado Revised Statute 18-8-503; Rogers v. People, (1966) 161 Colo. 317, 422 P.2d 377.
- CRS 18-5-901.
- CRS 18-8-502; People v. Chaussee, (Colo. 1994) 880 P.2d 749.
- CRS 18-8-503. Prior to March 1, 2022, 2nd-degree perjury was a class 1 misdemeanor, carrying 6 to 18 months in jail and/or a $500 to $5,000 fine. SB21-271.
- CRS 18-8-502.
- See People v. Scott, (Colo. 1990) 785 P.2d 931
- 8 USC 1227; 8 USC 1101; see Rivera v. Lynch, (9th Cir. 2016) 816 F.3d 1064.
- CRS 24-72-701-708.
- CRS 18-8-504.
- CRS 18-8-110.
- CRS 42-2-137.