Though all witnesses in a court case may have a certain stake in the proceedings, some may go beyond the truth at times. If a prosecutor believes he or she can prove a sworn witness is lying, then the accused may choose to mount some type of perjury defense. Due to the fact that a perjury action is very difficult to prove, a number of defense strategies could be very effective against perjury charges.
One perjury defense that is commonly used is known as the literal truth defense. This strategy acknowledges the testimony in question may have been misleading, but argues that it did constitute the truth from a literal perspective. To avoid this defense, lawyers often ask very specific questions that cannot be interpreted in many different ways. If the questions are not very specific, then there is a better chance of a succeeding with a perjury defense of this nature.
Another common perjury defense is the claim that the person giving the testimony did not understand the question. Unless the prosecutor can prove that the accused understood the question in the proper context, it may be very hard to get a conviction. Often, this may be proven more easily if the person providing the testimony repeats the question, but most prosecutors do not require this.
A person providing testimony may use forgetfulness as a perjury defense as well. It would be difficult for the prosecutor to prove otherwise, though it may still be possible if there were other points in the testimony that refer to the same incident. Still, the prosecutor must effectively make the case that the accused person was able to think of relevant facts at the time he or she was testifying.
If the prosecutor can prove that the testimony the accused person provided was false, the prosecuting attorney must then prove that the individual in question knew it was false at the time he or she provided the testimony. This can also be difficult, as the person may make the point that he or she had incorrect information at the time. Often, proving this involves finding other evidence that the person, in fact, knew the truth in advance of the testimony. This may be done by tape recorded or written evidence, in many cases.
Given the fact that a defendant could use so many perjury defense strategies, many prosecutors will not bring charges unless they have something very compelling. Therefore, most potential perjury cases are simply threats to compel the witness to testify truthfully. Still, if you think you may be facing a possibly perjury charge, either before or after giving testimony, you should consult an attorney.