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False Swearing Charges in Washington

Under Washington law false swearing is when a person knowingly makes a false statement under an oath required or authorized by law. This offense is a gross misdemeanor, meaning it is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a fine of $5,000 dollars. Typically the sentence is much less. This offense often comes up in Spokane in the context of alleged false statements made in filling out applications to purchase firearms, and also sometimes declarations in court proceedings. This often arises when a person fills out the National Firearm Act (NFA) Responsible Person Questionnaire. For example, it might be alleged that a person lies and says that he is not subject to a restraining order, or that he does not have any domestic violence prior offenses. These forms can be confusing, and it is a valid defense if a person doesn’t know that the information they are providing is false. Under the law, the form signed must specifically warn that oath is made under penalty of law.

The offense of false swearing differs from the felony offense of perjury in that perjury requires proof that the statement made was material. An example of a possible non-material detail might be an instance where a person might lie about an insignificant detail to avoid public embarrassment.

There is a statutory defense under Washington law that no person can be convicted of false swearing if he retracts his alleged false statement during the course of the same proceeding in which it the false statement was provided, and that he does so prior to it becoming clear that the falsehood is exposed or going to be exposed. It is not a defense to a charge of false swearing that the oath was made in an irregular manner or that the person administering the oath lacked the legal authority to do so. Additionally, there is not legal requirement that the oath be made in (or part) of any official proceeding. The oath can be part of a private commercial transaction or business activity.

If you have been charged with the offense of false swearing, please reach out to our law firm to learn about how we might be able to assist.