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False Statements

STATUTE: 18 USC 1001

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully-

  • Falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
  • Makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
  • Makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.


1. The defendant either 1made or used a false or fraudulent statement, representation, or writing; or falsified, or 2affirmatively concealed or covered up by trick, scheme, or device, a fact that the defendant had a legal duty to disclose.

  • (Note that if you give a literal truth, then you can't be charged with false statement, but you can get charged with concealment if you had a duty to disclose the information)

2. The false statement or information concealed was material

  • (Something is material if it has a natural tendency to influence or is capable of influencing the decision-making body to which it was addressed.)
  • (This is not a very strong defense because:
  • a. The false statement was credible or in fact believed.
  • b. That the false statement or concealment of fact was actually relied upon or actually influenced by the governmental agency or department (even if no one read it)
  • c. That there was any intended or actual financial or property loss to the federal government.
  • d. That the statements were required to be filed
  • e. That the statement was read, or even received, by the governmental agency or department.
  • f. Really, the only thing is to make sure that the government charges materiality in the indictment and makes some allegation to it. If not, it can be dismissed. But they can refile.)

3. The subject matter involved was within the jurisdiction.

4. The jurisdiction is of executive, legislative, or judicial branches of the US federal government.

  • (Under the judicial function exception, parties or their counsel may be prosecuted for false submissions to other entities within the judicial branch, such as the probation office. Non-parties may be prosecuted for any false submission within the jurisdiction of the judicial branch. A party to a judicial proceeding will not be prosecuted for that except under perjury.
  • Legislative function exception: false statements within the jurisdiction of the legislative branch are subject t prosecution only if they relate to administrative matters or congressional investigations conducted consistent with the applicable congressional rules.)

5. In doing so, defendant acted knowing and willfully.

(KNOWING: This requires knowledge of the falsity.

WILLFUL: There is a split whether you need intent to deceive someone. Some say you do, others say it is enough to know it is false.

Do you have to know that your lie relates to a matter within the jurisdiction of the federal government? NO. (See, US v. Yermian). This is a jurisdictional element, and it is strict liability.

Statutes above are up to date from www.law.cornell.edu as of October 1, 2009.

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