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What is Police Perjury?

By Renee Booker
Updated May 16, 2024
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Police perjury is a situation in which a police officer or law enforcement officer lies under oath or makes a false statement under oath. When this happens, he or she is subject to the same legal ramifications of a conviction as a citizen.

The issue of police perjury comes up frequently in criminal cases. In the United States, the police must have a reason to stop an individual or to search a person's home or vehicle. Unfortunately, in some cases, the police officer actually lacked a legitimate legal reason for the stop or the search, but will claim to have had one. In this situation, there are a number of opportunities for the police officer to lie or make a false statement under oath. Although it happens less often, police officers sometimes brazenly plant evidence, make up evidence from non-existent sources, or purposely "lose" evidence that could exonerate the defendant.

Normal procedure for a police officer includes first submitting a report, often referred to as a probable cause affidavit, which summarizes what happened that led to the stop, search, and/or arrest of the defendant. The report must be signed, under oath, by the police officer. If the police officer changes, omits, or adds information that is untrue, he or she has committed police perjury.

The next opportunity for a police officer to lie or make a false statement comes at any of a number of hearings that may take place in a criminal case, such as a probable cause hearing or motion to suppress hearing. In each of these hearings, or at trial, the police officer must take the stand and swear under oath to tell the truth. Again, if the officer lies on the stand or falsifies any of his or her testimony, then he or she has committed perjury.

In most cases, if an accusation of police perjury is substantiated, then none of the evidence obtained by that officer may be admitted in a trial against the defendant. Depending on the situation, the perjury may have tainted the case against the defendant to the point where all the charges must be dismissed. Furthermore, the police officer will face suspension or termination from his or her employment as well as criminal charges. This crime is often a felony which means that anyone, especially a police officer, who is convicted may face incarceration.

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Discussion Comments

By anon955989 — On Jun 10, 2014

Law enforcement officers are abusers of power and they always get away with it. They don't have any respect for the Constitution. I was personally deprived of my constitutional rights and can't do anything about it. That said, what is the Constitution good for, anyway?

By anon334821 — On May 15, 2013

I've been in and out of court for that last year over a situation where a pathetic excuse for a police officer told me to go inside an apartment to tell someone to come out. When I obeyed the officer's instructions and went to the apartment room and told this individual to come out, when we walked out of the apartment, I was charged with "fleeing and evading," but the other guy was let go. It was a setup so this officer could charge me with something bogus for his own personal satisfaction and I was told by this officer, "I'm a lot bigger than you I've hit people and caused them to get four stitches and I can take you jail right now if I want and nobody can stop me."

Luckily, I wasn't taken to jail, but I'm still going to court over "fleeing and evading."

Yes LoriCharlie, it's sad, but that's the kind of world we live in, apparently. I'm a tax-paying, law-abiding American citizen and this type of behavior by any law enforcement is not only a disgrace to the constitution and the nation, but is also disgrace to law enforcement everywhere and everything that it stands for!

By anon333101 — On May 02, 2013

The Oath of Honor is a standard. Police officers want the ability to wear a badge. This is a symbol that should be a reminder to the officers that they are to conduct themselves the way they want to be treated.

It only takes one mistake, lie or deceptive act of unkindness to lose the public's trust. Policemen can be nice and still convict criminals. For those officers who have lived above and beyond the call of duty, I thank you for helping to raise me. I would risk my life for you, too.

By anon314912 — On Jan 21, 2013

What, if any, crime is committed when a police officer tells the DA he will testify to whatever the prosecutor wants in order to obtain a conviction?

By anon300350 — On Oct 29, 2012

Police who commit perjury also break the law.

By anon286088 — On Aug 19, 2012

@loricharlie: An elderly lady in Atlanta, Ga was shot and killed after she shot at the police while executing a no knock warrant on her house (she thought it was a home invasion). The officer lied about information needed to obtain a no knock warrant, and executed this warrant on the wrong person's house because he "believed" there was a crime being committed. An innocent person lost her life. No life, even that of a criminal is worth being put in jeopardy for a conviction.

By LoriCharlie — On Jul 16, 2012

Police perjury sounds like something right out of one of those hour long crime shows! I don't think I've ever heard of this happening in real life, but of course that doesn't mean it's never happened.

Also, I kind of have to be the devil's advocate here, but is it really that bad for a cop to make up a reason to pull someone over? If they really believe the person in the car is committing a crime, and then they actually are, who cares why the cop pulled them over in the first place? I think this is one instance where the end justifies the means, and I think that would be a good perjury defense!

By Monika — On Jul 16, 2012

@Pharoah - I guess I have more faith in our legal system than you do, because I have to believe that a police officer who commits perjury will eventually face perjury charges. I find that in most cases, the truth usually comes out. So why would this be any different?

Although I would imagine a police officer who actually was incarcerated for perjury might be kept out of the general population in prison though. I doubt a police officer would be the most popular inmate in a prison, and he or she might even come face to face with some people they had arrested during their career!

By Pharoah — On Jul 15, 2012

I have to wonder how often police officers who commit this crime actually face perjury punishment? What I mean to say it, I wonder how often police officers actually get caught doing this?

Police officers are usually considered to be above reproach. If it's the word of an average citizen against a police officer, the police officer will usually win. So how likely is it that anyone will believe an accused criminal when they say a police officer is lying or has planted evidence? Not likely, in my opinion.

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