NRS 199.120 is the Nevada law that prohibits perjury, the legal term for lying under oath. It is a category D felony to commit either perjury or subornation of perjury — which is inducing another person to lie under oath. Penalties include 1 to 4 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $5,000. The most common defense is that the defendant believed he/she was telling the truth.
- Intentionally giving false testimony while on a witness stand during a district court trial.
- Deliberately offering inaccurate statements during a deposition.
- Purposely answering an interrogatory with fabricated information.
The statute states:
A person, having taken a lawful oath or made affirmation in a judicial proceeding – who willfully makes an unqualified statement of that which the person does not know to be true – is guilty of perjury.
Below, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys will discuss:
- 1. What is the legal definition of perjury in Nevada?
- 2. What are the penalties under NRS 199.120?
- 3. What are ways to fight the charges?
- 4. Is perjury deportable?
- 5. Can the record be sealed?
NRS 199.120 defines perjury as when a person takes an oath in a judicial or other proceeding where an oath is required, and that person either:
- Willfully makes an unqualified statement that the person does not know to be true; or
- Swears or affirms willfully and falsely in a matter material to the issue or point in question; or
- Suborns, bribes or induces any other person to make an unqualified statement or to swear or affirm in such a manner; or
- Executes an affidavit for a verification of a pleading which contains a false statement, or induces any other person to do so; or
- Executes an affidavit or other instrument which contains a false statement before a person authorized to administer oaths or induces any other person to do so.
Under state law, making a statement that the person does not know to be true is just as perjurious as intentionally lying.1
1.1. Subornation of perjury
To suborn perjury means to induce or to bribe someone to lie under oath. Suborning other people to perjure themselves is punished the same as personally making the perjurious statements.2
1.2. Federal Law
It is also a crime under federal law to give fraudulent information under oath. For more information, read our article on the federal crime of perjury.3
Perjury is typically a category D felony in Nevada. The sentence is:
- 1 to 4 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- up to $5,000 in fines (at the judge’s discretion)4
It is a gross misdemeanor to attempt – without bribery – to suborn others to perjure themselves. The penalty is:
- up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- up to $2,000 in fines5
- life without the possibility of parole, or
- life with the possibility of parole after 20 years, or
- 50 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years6
Note that judges may punish perjurers by holding them in criminal contempt of court (NRS 199.340). Also note there is no civil cause of action for perjuring. In other words, it is a crime but not a tort.
2.1. Federal penalties
Violating federal perjuring law carries a fine and/or up to 5 years in prison.7 A person convicted of perjuring in both Nevada state and federal courts would serve the sentences consecutively (one after the other).
Three common defenses to fight NRS 199.120 criminal charges include:
- The defendant never took an oath, or an oath was not required.8
- The false information was not material to the matter at hand.9
- The defendant believed he/she was being truthful.
Note that it is not a defense to a Nevada perjury charge that the oath was not administered properly or that the witness was incompetent.10 Nor is it a defense that the defendant’s attorney advised him/her to lie; but a jury may take this into account when determining the defendant’s intent to lie.11
In any case, the prosecution has the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the district attorney falls short, the case should be dismissed.
It is possible that an immigration court would consider lying under oath to be a crime involving moral turpitude and/or an aggravated felony.12 Therefore, non-citizens charged with an NRS 199.120 violation should retain experienced counsel in an attempt to get the charges dismissed or reduced to a non-removable offense.
An NRS 199.120 conviction can be sealed 5 years after the case ends. But if the charge gets dismissed, the record is sealable immediately. Learn how to seal Nevada criminal records.13
See our related articles on these criminal offenses:
- Malicious prosecution (NRS 199.310)
- Offering false evidence (NRS 199.210)
- Destroying evidence (NRS 199.220)
- Failure to attend jury duty (NRS 6.040)
- False impersonation of a peace officer, police officers, public officer, or public justice (NRS 199.430)
In California? See our article on Penal Code 118 PC.
- NRS 199.120; Licata v. State, 99 Nev. 331, 661 P.2d 1306 (Nevada Supreme Court 1983).
- Nevada Revised Statute 199.120. (Also see our article on judicial bribery, where judges make or receive bribes in violation of their official duties.); also see NRS 199.130 (making a false affidavit or complaint in order to effect an arrest or search), Nevada Revised Statute 199.140 (Use of fictitious name on affidavit or complaint to effect arrest or search), and Nevada Revised Statute 199.145 (Making a declaration under penalty of perjury (or inducing someone else to do so) when the declaration contains either: a willful and false statement in a matter material to the issue or point in question, or a willful and unqualified statement which the person does not know to be true).
- 18 United States Code § 1621.
- NRS 199.120; NRS 199.130; NRS 199.140; NRS 199.145; NRS 193.130.
- Nevada Revised Statute 199.150.
- Nevada Revised Statute 199.160 (Procuring execution of innocent person).
- 18 U.S.C. § 1621.
- White v. State, 102 Nev. 153, 717 P.2d 45 (1986).
- Sheriff, Clark County v. Hecht, 101 Nev. 779, 710 P.2d 728 (1985).
- Nevada Revised Statute 199.180. (Irregularity in administering oath or incompetency of witness no defense).
- Cosio v. State, 106 Nev. 327, 793 P.2d 836 (1990).
- See, for example, Karpay v. Uhl, 70 F.2d 792 (2d Cir. 1934); Matter of Miguel Angel Alvarado, 26 I&N Dec. 895 (BIA 2016).
- Nevada Revised Statute 179.245; Nevada Revised Statute 179.255. Note that gross misdemeanor convictions under NRS 199.150 can be sealed 2 years after the case closes.