If a dashcam shows one party is 100% at fault, but they tell the officer at the scene another story and tells it very loudly (like volume vindicates their guilt or innocence), can we charge the driver with perjury?

I've witnessed a few accidents where someone didn't stop and yield at a 4-way stop. The party at fault is yelling very loudly both at the person they hit and later at the responding officer that they were in the right, etc.

If I (or someone else) had dashcam footage of the accident that showed who they didn't stop, could the officer also charge them with perjury as well as being 100% at fault of the accident? If I was a party in this accident, could I use the footage to show who's at fault and who's committing perjury?

EDIT: Just to clear up, I'm not saying because someone is loud, they are innocent. I am saying some people, when they are at fault, yell their case very loudly and declare that they are innocent.

And when the cops come to sort things out, even with logic, common sense, and witnesses stating they were 100% guilty, they continue yelling that they are innocent. I've had this happen to me before and luckily the authorities and witnesses backed me up. It was very annoying having someone yelling in my face when myself and everyone else knew they were 100% wrong.


3 Answers 3


As far as I know, every jurisdiction in America limits perjury to cases of lying under oath. Because it seems unlikely that the driver would be under oath at this point, you would probably lack probable cause to make an arrest.

At the same time, many states have separate laws addressing the making of false reports, lying to an officer, etc. I'd imagine most jurisdictions would have a law supporting an arrest for lying at the scene, even if not for perjury.


Short Answer

No. You can't charge someone with perjury at a traffic stop.

Long Answer

Perjury is a criminal offense, not a claim that can be brought by a private individual in a civil action. Prosecutors charge people with perjury and other crimes if they find that there is probable cause to do so. Perjury consists of lying about a material matter under oath or under an affirmation or declaration made under penalty of perjury.

Generally speaking, a statement made to someone at the scene of an auto accident would not constitute perjury, even if it was intentionally false regarding a material matter, although a false statement to a police officer could constitute the lesser crime of making a false statement to a police officer. Sometimes an written accident report is prepared and signed by someone involved in an accident under penalty of perjury, but this would usually be stated clearly on the written document if that was the case.

Private individuals can't charge anyone with any crime or ordinance violation, including perjury, in most jurisdictions in the U.S. There are a few exceptions (mostly on the East Coast).

Law enforcement officers also don't determine the percentage by which someone is at fault, That is the job of a judge or jury in a civil trial.

Law enforcement officers can issue traffic citations to anyone whom they believe they have probable cause to believe committed a traffic offense, and a court will determine if a traffic offense was committed if there is not a guilty plea.

Law enforcement officers can also arrest people if they have probable cause to believe a crime subject to arrest was committed, and if the prosecutor agrees and decides it is worth the effort, the prosecutor can file criminal charges.

Private individuals can report suspected crimes to law enforcement (or directly to a prosecutor) and can ask to "press charges", but the decision to press charges is ultimately reserved to the prosecutor.

Dashcam videos can be admissible evidence in either a lawsuit arising from an automobile accident and in a criminal trial, if duly authenticated and if disclosed in advance of trial where court rules require that it be disclosed.

  • 1
    FWIW: Some jurisdictions do allow citizens to press charges. When I lived in Virginia, I was able, as just some person off the street, to take an affidavit to a magistrate because my HOA's towing company was illegally towing vehicles. The magistrate found probable cause and issued a warrant This all happened with no input from the prosecutor, who saw the case for the first time about an hour before trial.
    – bdb484
    Jun 4, 2018 at 16:58
  • 3
    @bdb484 This is why I stated that: "There are a few exceptions (mostly on the East Coast)." MA is another exception.
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 4, 2018 at 17:00
  • 3
    Yes, but I decided to mouth off before reading all the way through.
    – bdb484
    Jun 4, 2018 at 17:02

There's practically no possibility for perjury charges in the setting you describe. If anything, the driver at fault was exercising his or her constitutional right against self-incrimination (Fifth Amendment).

Loud refutations to another driver or to an officer are not recognized as proof of guilt (nor as consciousness thereof). Only if things get out of control, the driver might be arrested/charged for disorderly conduct. But that is unrelated to perjury.

Lying to a police officer is prosecuted only in more extreme scenarios, such as where deliberate falsehoods are material, abet misconduct, or may have significantly impaired the ascertainment of the truth in the investigation of serious crimes.

  • 4
    I think the Fifth Amendment analysis is off here. If someone's talking, they're not exercising their right against self-incrimination. I don't think I've ever heard of anyone successfully invoking a Fifth Amendment defense for lying to an investigator.
    – bdb484
    Jun 4, 2018 at 16:47
  • 1
    And probably with your second paragraph as well. If we have video of Person A doing X, and then saying that she did Y, and Person B did X, I can't see why a jury wouldn't be allowed to treat that as proof of consciousness of guilt.
    – bdb484
    Jun 4, 2018 at 16:52
  • @bdb484: I didn't say that the video is inadmissible evidence. What I wrote is that loudness of refutations does not prove guilt and does not prove consciousness of guilt. OP mistakenly posits that "volume vindicates their guilt". Jun 4, 2018 at 19:40
  • 1
    I think he was actually attributing -- and rejecting -- that thought to the person doing the shouting.
    – bdb484
    Jun 4, 2018 at 19:50
  • @IñakiViggers, yes, I'm not saying because they are loud, they are innocent. I have witnessed a few incidents in my life where someone was at fault but they were yelling very, very loudly stating they were innocent. Luckily, it looked like logic, common sense, and witnesses prevailed and the cops took the guilty party aside to do whatever with them.
    – Classified
    Jun 7, 2018 at 1:11

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .