How to Avoid Perjury in a Bankruptcy Case

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When you file a bankruptcy case, you have to provide lots of information. Once all that info is gathered, you'll put together documents called bankruptcy schedules and a statement of financial affairs. All of these documents must be signed under "penalty of perjury".

What Penalty of Perjury Is

A penalty of perjury is an alternative to swearing, or affirming, to tell the truth. It does not require an officer of the court, like a notary, administer an oath. Instead, when you sign a document under penalty of perjury, you understand you could be prosecuted for signing the documents if the information is wrong or incomplete—and you knew that at the time of signing.

Ways to Commit Perjury

Here is a short list of some ways you can commit perjury in a bankruptcy case:

  • Listing a false address, false name, or false Social Security number
  • Failing to list all names used in the previous eight years
  • Failing to list all times you've filed bankruptcy in the previous eight years 
  • Failing to list all your creditors, property, income, or expenses
  • Lying about types of income or expenses you have
  • Failing to answer or lying in your answers to the statement of financial affairs
  • Lying or omitting information during testimony in bankruptcy court or in a deposition in a bankruptcy case
  • Lying or omitting information in a creditor meeting

If you're thinking about lying in bankruptcy court or committing bankruptcy fraud, you should understand bankruptcy court better. You should know the Department of Justice has seen it all.

Research and find a list of some of the infractions the federal government might charge you with when lying to the bankruptcy court or committing fraud with your creditors on the Department of Justice bankruptcy sample indictments website.

The Penalties of Perjury

Most infractions listed above are felonies under federal law. Felonies generally carry a higher penalty than misdemeanors or civil infractions. All are serious penalties for a serious crime. Below are some of the penalties:

Prison

If you are convicted of committing perjury in connection with your bankruptcy case, you can go to federal prison for up to five years for each count.

Fines

In addition to going to prison, you can be fined up to $250,000. 

Restitution

If your perjury caused harm to another, you can be ordered to pay restitution.

Loss of Discharge

Specific to bankruptcy, you can lose your discharge or lose the discharge of certain debts while being required to forfeit non-exempt property.

Loss of Rights and Privileges

Once convicted of a felony, you can also be denied these rights and privileges of citizenship:

  • vote
  • possess a firearm
  • enlist in the armed forces
  • serve on a jury
  • certain federal benefits
  • hold federal office or employment

Affect on Immigration Status

Being convicted of a bankruptcy crime can also negatively affect your immigration status and your application for citizenship.

Updated by Carron E. Nicks