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What is the crime of false testimony?

Criminal law
What is the crime of false testimony?

The crime of false testimony is regulated in the Spanish Penal Code. Persons who give false testimony in legal proceedings can lose their liberty for a period of 6 months to 2 years. They will also be sanctioned with fines of 6 to 24 months.

That said, any person can be denounced in Spanish territory for the crime of false testimony. However, in order for it to be possible to initiate legal proceedings against this individual, it is compulsory to present evidence of the false statements.

What is the crime of false testimony?

In the legal context, the offence of false testimony occurs when a person testifies falsely despite being obliged to testify under oath. In other words, when a person giving testimony in a trial lies about it or presents false evidence.

This type of crime is committed for the purpose of reducing applicable sentences or evading penalties.

Because the perpetrator is aware of the falsity of his statement, the offence of false testimony is intentional. It also causes damage to an individual or collective legal asset.

It should be noted that this offence is an activity offence, which means that it does not require actual damage.

Characteristics of the crime of false testimony

For the crime of false testimony to exist, there must be specific circumstances, which are described below:

- False statement: the falsity of the statement has to necessarily influence relevant information. For example, an individual says he has a salary of €500 per month, but in reality he earns €2,000.

- Testimony: must be oriented towards concrete facts, not opinions. For example, an employee who asks for sick leave due to muscle contractions that prevent him from moving and a private detective follows him every night to a discotheque.

- Court case: the event must take place in a court of law and must take place in a criminal, civil or contentious-administrative context.

Where is the offence of false testimony regulated?

The offence of false testimony is standardised in the Penal Code, specifically in articles 458 to 462. These offences are considered to be criminal acts prejudicial to the Administration of Justice. The Administration of Justice is an entity in which relevant decisions are issued in multiple judicial contexts.

Article 458.3 criminalises whether the false declaration occurs in International Courts, a criminal context or in Spanish International Rogatory Commissions, individually.

On the other hand, Articles 459 and 460 describe the procedure to be followed in the case of false statements by witnesses, experts and interpreters. Article 461 refers to the penalties in cases of provocation through false partial statements or false witnesses, either by the lawyer or by the accused.

Finally, Article 462 regulates the aspect of retraction of acquittal.

Aggravating circumstance of false testimony

In the context of the offence of false testimony, there are situations that aggravate the complexity of the offence and, therefore, the punishments:

In the event that the active subject of the criminal act is a lawyer, representative of the Public Prosecutor's Office, solicitor or social graduate, the sentence is imposed in its upper range. Also, a special disqualification from holding any public office or other employment is imposed for a period of 2 to 4 years.

If the expert or witness changes the testimony, omits essential information or alters reality, without being completely untruthful, the penalty is equivalent to a fine of 6 to 12 months. It also entails suspension from holding public office for a period of 6 months to 3 years.

If the interpreters or experts fraudulently misrepresent the truth, both in translation and in the report, the penalties will be doubled by half. In addition, they shall be disqualified from holding public office for a period of 6 to 12 years.

What are the penalties for false testimony?

Depending on the type of trial (criminal or civil), the penalties for the crime of false testimony can be higher or lower. Below, we detail each of the cases:

Penalties in a civil trial

In the case of a civil trial, if you are completely untruthful, the penalties range from 6 months to 2 years imprisonment. A fine of 3 to 6 months is also imposed.

When the witness does not totally misrepresent the truth, but omits information, the penalty is lesser, being a fine of 6 to 12 months and a suspension of 6 months to 3 years from holding public office.

Penalties in criminal trial

If the offence takes place in a criminal trial, the penalties are higher compared to a civil trial. For complete misrepresentation of the truth, the penalties are imprisonment for 1 to 3 years and fines of 6 to 12 months. Partial omission of the truth results in a fine of 6 to 12 months and suspension from public office.

Can a defendant commit the offence of false testimony?

The answer is no. In this case, we are in the opposite context. The accused can lie in his testimony, as he has the right to defend himself, which is above the concurrence of the crime of false testimony. Of course, if the witness lies, the accused will not go unpunished.

On this point, article 461 of the Penal Code emphasises that a witness or expert who gives false testimony will be punished in accordance with the legislation in force.

When can you report the crime of false testimony?

In the legal context, false testimony is one of the most serious crimes. For this reason, it is important to bear in mind when you can report a crime of this type or not.

As mentioned above, false testimony applies when a person lies before a judge. However, it is worth mentioning that not everyone can report these offences. In order to make such a complaint, it is necessary to be part of the legal process to which the false testimony in question is attributed.

On the other hand, it should be borne in mind that the statute of limitations for false testimony is 5 years. This means that the person harmed by the false statement has 5 years from the time it occurred to file the corresponding complaint.

If you have been implicated in a false report and you want to defend yourself, call us.

Criminal law

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