I accidentally lied during my deposition; could I be charged with perjury?

Question:  In my deposition in the personal injury case I filed after a car accident, I forgot that the airbag had deployed when I was hit. Now it's time for my trial, and my sister reminded me about the air bag. At trial, if I say that the bag deployed, could I be accused of perjury? Does my sister have anything to worry about?

Answer:  In order to be guilty of perjury, you must have intentionally lied under oath. You did not commit perjury because you honestly forgot the fact that the airbag deployed. Your honest lapse of memory is not perjury because you did not intend to mislead anyone or misrepresent the truth.

Of course, now that you have recalled that the airbag deployed, you need to testify truthfully under oath about that at trial. If you were to take the stand at trial and say the same thing you said at your deposition, leaving out the airbag deployment, you would be committing perjury. This is because you would be intentionally testifying falsely under oath. So, you need to tell the truth as you now recall it when you take the stand at trial.

But, you will also need to be able to explain the change in your testimony at trial. Your lawyer will help you prepare to do this – tell your lawyer before you testify that you have recalled additional details. That way he or she can explain to you how to approach this when you take the stand at trial. And, be sure to mention that your sister reminded you about the airbag, so that your lawyer can be prepared to deal with that aspect.

As for your sister, she did not suborn perjury or commit any other offense. This is so because you did not commit perjury (suborning perjury requires that an actual perjury, an falsehood under oath, occur). But, she may be called to testify about reminding you, so be sure to tell your lawyer about her reminder.

To learn more about perjury, see  Perjury.

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