In a DUI trial, the State typically relies on the testimony of several witnesses in order to make its case against the defendant. Those witnesses may be law enforcement officers, experts, or uninvolved bystanders. Whether the trial is a trial by judge or jury, the testimony given by a witness can irrevocably impact the outcome of the case. What happens though, if a witness lies on the stand? A Nebraska DUI defense attorney explains both the potential legal consequences and the likely real-world consequences of a witness who lies.
If you have ever watched a crime drama on television or the big screen you have probably watched a witness take the stand, swear under the penalties of perjury to tell the truth, and then proceed to testify for the State or the defense. Perjury is a very real offense, governed by Nebraska Revised Statute 28-915 which reads as follows:
(1) A person is guilty of perjury if, in any (a) official proceeding he or she makes a false statement under oath or equivalent affirmation, or swears or affirms the truth of a statement previously made, when the statement is material and he or she does not believe it to be true or (b) official proceeding in the State of Nebraska he or she makes a false statement in any unsworn declaration meeting the requirements of the Uniform Unsworn Foreign Declarations Act under penalty of perjury when the statement is material and he or she does not believe it to be true. Perjury is a Class III felony.
(2) A person is guilty of subornation of perjury if he or she persuades, procures, or suborns any other person to commit perjury. Subornation of perjury is a Class III felony.
(3) A falsification shall be material, regardless of the admissibility of the statement under rules of evidence, if it could have affected the course or outcome of the proceeding. It shall not be a defense that the declarant mistakenly believed the falsification to be immaterial. Whether a falsification is material in a given factual situation shall be a question of law.
(4) It shall not be a defense to prosecution under this section that the oath or affirmation was administered or taken in an irregular manner or that the declarant was not competent to make the statement. A document purporting to be made upon oath or affirmation at any time when the actor presents it as being so verified shall be deemed to have been duly sworn or affirmed. A document purporting to meet the requirements of the Uniform Unsworn Foreign Declarations Act shall be deemed to have been made under penalty of perjury.
(5) No person shall be guilty of an offense under this section if he or she retracted the falsification in the course of the proceeding in which it was made before it became manifest that the falsification was or would be exposed and before the falsification substantially affected the proceeding.
(6) When the defendant made inconsistent statements under oath or equivalent affirmation, both having been made within the period of the statute of limitations, the prosecution may proceed by setting forth the inconsistent statements in a single count alleging in the alternative that one or the other was false and not believed by the defendant. In such case it shall not be necessary for the prosecution to prove which statement was false but only that one or the other was false and not believed by the defendant to be true.
(7) No person shall be convicted of an offense under this section when proof of falsity rests solely upon contradiction by testimony of a single person other than the defendant.
Because perjury is a felony in Nebraska, a conviction for perjury could result in a lengthy period of incarceration. In reality, however, that rarely happens.
Back in the Real World
In the real world, very few people are ever charged with perjury, in part because it is often difficult to prove that someone lied on the stand and in part because most instances of perjury are not worth pursuing. In a jury trial, the jurors are instructed by the judge that they are the sole judges of the credibility of the witnesses and must decide the value of the testimony of each witness. That means that the jury members must each decide whether they believe the testimony of a particular witness. If they are skeptical that a witness is telling the truth, they can discount what witness’s testimony or place a lessor value on the testimony when deliberating in an attempt to reach a verdict. If the witness is a witness for the State, it becomes the defense attorney’s job to convince the jury that the witness is lying. This is done through the art of cross-examination. The attorney may try and trip the witness up or might use prior, contradictory, statements to bring out the truth. A defense attorney may also call a different witness to rebut the statements made by the lying witness. Ultimately, however, it is up to the jury (or judge in a bench trial) to decide if a witness is lying.
Contact a Nebraska DUI Defense Attorney at Petersen Law Office
If you are facing DUI charges in Nebraska, it is always in your best interest to consult directly with an experienced Nebraska DUI defense attorney about the specific facts and circumstances of your case. Contact the Nebraska DUI defense attorneys at Petersen Law Office 24 hours a day at 402-513-2180 to discuss your case with an experienced defense lawyer.