A false statement is a statement which is factually untrue. When someone makes such a statement, however, it is not made with the intent to mislead, which distinguishes it from a lie. These types of statements may be subject to legal penalties in some regions, as for example in contracts which can be broken if one party later discovers that the other party made a false statement about an issue key to the contract's nature.
People can make false statements without knowing it, or they may do so willfully. For example, someone might state on an application for health insurance that he or she has never had acne, forgetting that this is not the case, or might make this statement thinking that a brief bout of acne is not important and therefore does not need to be disclosed. In neither case is the applicant attempting to mislead, although that untrue statement may in fact weighed when considering whether or not to accept the application.
Punishment for a false statement usually depends on the nature of the statement and how material it is to the facts of a matter. It can include fines and imprisonment. However, judges will consider factors like genuine lack of knowledge which led someone to make an untrue statement without realizing it. Likewise, if someone makes a false statement because a question is poorly worded or not understood, this can be a factor in determining the penalties.
If someone makes a false statement and later becomes aware of it, he or she should bring it to the attention of a lawyer to see which options are available for clearing the matter up. To avoid accusations of making false statements, people should make sure that they fully understand questions when they are asked, and they should request clarification if a question is not clear in nature.
When people commit perjury, by contrast, they lie with the deliberate intend to mislead. To borrow the insurance example again, if someone knows that disclosing a past history of acne is likely to lead to a denial or to a higher premium and decides to lie on the application, this is perjury. Likewise, if a witness on the stand deliberately misstates information with the goal of misleading, as for example if a witness says that he or she saw something but really did not, this is also perjury.