PERJURY, crim. law. This offence at common law is defined to be a wilful false oath, by one who being lawfully required to depose the truth in any judicial proceedings, swears absolutely in a matter material to the point in question, whether he be believed or not.
2. If we analyze this definition we will find, 1st. That the oath must be wilful. 2d. That it must be false. 3d. That the party was lawfully sworn. 4th. That the proceeding was judicial. 6th. That the assertion was absolute. 6th. That the falsehood was material to the point in question.
3. - 1. The intention must be wilful. The oath must be taken and the falsehood asserted with deliberation, and a consciousness of the nature of the statement made; for if it has arisen in consequence of inadvertency, surprise or mistake of the import of the question, there was no corrupt motive; Hawk. B. 1, c. 69, s. 2; but one who swears wilfully and deliberately to a matter which he rashly believes, which is false, and which he had no probable cause for believing, is guilty of perjury. 6 Binn. R. 249. See 1 Baldw. 370; 1 Bailey, 50.
4. - 2. The oath must be false. The party must believe that what he is swearing is fictitious; for, if intending to deceive, he asserts that which may happen to be true, without any knowledge of the fact, he is equally criminal, and the accidental truth of his evidence will not excuse him. 3 Inst. 166 Hawk. B. 1, c. 69, s. 6.
5. - 3. The party must be lawfully sworn. The person by whom the oath is administered must have competent authority to receive it; an oath, therefore, taken before a private person, or before an officer having no jurisdiction, will not amount to perjury. 3 Inst. 166; 1 Johns. R. 498; 9 Cowen, R. 30; 3 M'Cord, R. 308; 4 M'Cord, It. 165; 2 Russ. on Cr. 520; 3 Carr. & Payne, 419; S. C. 14 Eng. Com. Law Rep. 376; 2 Chitt. Cr. Law, 304; 4 Hawks, 182; 1 N. & M. 546; 3 M'Cord, 308; 2 Hayw. 56; 8 Pick. 453.
6. - 4. The proceedings must be judicial. Proceedings before those who are in any way entrusted with the administration of justice, in respect of any matter regularly before them, are considered as judicial for this purpose. 2 Chitt. Crim. C. 303; 2 Russ. on Cr. 518; Hawk. B. 1, c. 69, s. 3. Vide 3 Yeates, R. 414; 9 Pet. Rep. 238. Perjury cannot therefore be committed in a case of which the court had no jurisdiction. 4 Hawks, 182; 2 Hayw. 56; 3 M'Cord, 308; 8 Pick. 453: 1 N. & McC. 546.
7. - 5. The assertion must be absolute. If a man, however, swears that he believes that to be true which he knows to be false, it will be perjury. 2 Russ. on Cr. 518; 3 Wils. 427; 2 Bl. Rep. 881; 1 Leach, 242; 6 Binn. Rep. 249; Lofft's Gilb. Ev. 662.
8. - 6. The oath must be material to the question depending. Where the facts sworn to are wholly foreign from the purpose and altogether immaterial to the matter in question, the oath does not amount to a legal perjury. 2 Russel on Cr. 521; 3 Inst. 167; 8 Ves. jun. 35; 2 Rolle, 41, 42, 369; 1 Hawk. B. 1, c. 69, s. 8; Bac. Ab. Perjury, A; 2 N. & M. 118; 2 Mis. R. 158. Nor can perjury be assigned upon the valuation under oath, of a jewel or other thing, the value of which consists in estimation. Sid. 146; 1 Keble, 510.
9. It is not within the plan of this work to cite all the statutes passed by the general government, or the several states on the subject of perjury. It is proper, however, here to transcribe a part of the 13th section of the act of congress of March 3, 1825, which provides as follows: "If any person in any case, matter, bearing, or other proceeding, when an oath or affirmation shall be required to be taken or administered under or by any law or laws of the United States, shall, upon the taking of such oath or affirmation, knowingly and willingly swear or affirm falsely, every person, so offending, shall be deemed guilty of perjury, and shall, on conviction thereof, be punished by fine, not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment and confinement to bard labor, not exceeding five years, according to the aggravation of the offence. And if any person or persons shall knowingly or willingly procure any such perjury to be committed, every person so offending shall be deemed guilty of subornation of perjury, and shall on conviction thereof, be punished. by fine, not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment and confinement to bard labor, not exceeding five years, according to the aggravation of the offence."
10. In general it may be observed that a perjury is committed as well by making a false affirmation, as a false oath. Vide, generally, 16 Vin. Abr. 307; Bac. Abr. h. t.; Com. Dig. Justices of the Peace, B 102 to 106; 4 Bl. Com. 137 to 139; 3 Inst. 163 to 168; Hawk. B. 1, c. 69; Russ. on Cr. B. 5, c. 1; 2 Chitt. Cr. L. c. 9; Roscoe on Cr. Ev. h. t.; Burn's J. h. t. Williams' J. h. t.