When you sign a written statement known as an affidavit, you swear before a notary or other person authorized to give oaths that the contents of the document are true. Affidavits are used in many areas of law, from written statements presented to the judge as testimony during lawsuits to fill-in-the-blank forms used for administrative purposes, such as to register a motor vehicle or apply for a loan. Knowingly making a false statement on an affidavit is punishable as perjury under both state and federal laws.
Federal Penalty Is up to Five Years in Prison
Under federal law, the penalty for perjury by signing a false affidavit is a fine, up to five years in prison, or both. For your statement to constitute perjury, you must intentionally deceive the court by making a statement of fact that you know is false and that could affect the outcome of the proceedings. For example, if you purposely lie on a sworn affidavit during the application process for Social Security Disability benefits, you could face time in prison.
Penalties Change With Circumstances
States have varying laws about making false affidavits, and the penalties often depend on the circumstances surrounding the crime. For example, in Montana, the penalty for making a false affidavit is a fine of up to $500 and not more than six months in jail, but the fine increases to $5,000 if the affidavit falsely states the contents of a political advertisement are true. Michigan law imposes a jail sentence of up to 15 years when someone who is required by law to swear an oath knowingly falsifies a record, like when a police officer swears to false information on a search warrant affidavit.