I am not talking about criminal libel or defamation in jurisdiction where such a thing exists - rather, is there a modern equivalent of an oath ? Can a talk show host for example ask an interviewee to confirm or deny an alleged fact in such a way that if later determined to be a lie it will make the interviewee criminally liable ? Can a private party form a contract with another party that should a certain representation be determined false a criminal rather than civil penalty will apply ?

  • which country's laws would you like your answers based on? And please tag it as such Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 16:18
  • Any one that allows for such a concept really Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 16:19
  • Fraud is an example of where lying can get you to jail. Martin Shkreli, former pharaceutical executive was charged with criminal fraud for fraudulently lying to his investors about the use of their money. I believe he was never sued for civil fraud, since he ended up making his clients money, so they couldn't prove loss sustained by the fraud. Criminal fraud, of course, doesn't need to show loss. Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 16:21
  • 1
    Yes but fraud involves more elements than simply making false representations, I'm thinking more like perjury or the famous 18 U.S.C. § 1001 Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 16:22
  • In the UK criminal fraud can be done through a misrepesentation (This type of fraud is called fraudulent misrepresentation). See Fraud Act 2006 s.2. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your question, could you clarify what type of lies you're talking about in your question? Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 16:26

4 Answers 4


Yes - it’s called an oath

Or, if you do not want to take a religious oath, you can make an affirmation instead which is legally the same but cuts out the deity.

If the document that is sworn or affirmed is to be used in a court or tribunal it’s called an affidavit, if not, it’s called a statutory declaration. In NSW how they are made is detailed in the Oaths Act 1900. Swearing or affirming a knowingly false statement is a criminal offence.

Other laws detail when they are required, for example, photo generated vehicle penalty notices have a blank statutory declaration on the back so the owner can identify the person in control of the vehicle. They can also be called up in contracts- they are pretty standard in construction contracts where a contractor must make a statutory declaration that all employees wages, entitlements and insurances have been paid as a prerequisite to their own payment from the principal.


There are two contexts where a lie might be a crime. One is criminal fraud, and the other is lying to the authorities in an official matter (not involving a sworn statement i.e. perjury, which involves more than just an "official proceeding"). If the police are investigating some suspicious event, it may be a (non-perjury) crime to make a false statement to them. The usual way of framing this is in terms of a false statement in a "matter" within a particular jurisdiction, which could mean an SEC investigation of suspicious stock trading. That would exclude the talk show host case or the contract case. The second would be be criminal fraud which is a step up from civil fraud (a higher standard of proof). The most important element of fraud is making a material false statement in order to obtain another person's property. If you can come up with a scenario where a talk show host gives his property to an interviewee based on the assumption that a particular statement is true, then maybe there is a basis for a criminal fraud charge. The same situation could apply to a contract, but also doesn't need an explicit "liable to prosecution if you lie" statement. If I have a contract with you where you must deliver a specific car to me in exchange for me giving you $10,000, it would be fraud if you did not intend to deliver the car and instead take off with the money. However, apart from the scenario of obtaining property via a false or deceptive statement, there is no option to criminally prosecute a person for a false communication to an unprivileged person (i.e. not "the authorities").

  • Liying as a public company director would be criminal if it could affect the stock price even if you did not directly say those the false statement to the SEC or FBI.
    – Putvi
    Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 19:27

In Germany, you can make a statement under oath outside of court. It's criminal to do this if the statement is false.

Let's say an accusation is made against you. If I ask you "is that accusation true", if you were innocent you would say "absolutely no". If you were guilty, you wouldn't admit it, and you would also say "absolutely no", so this statement of yours won't convince people either way. If the accusation is false, and it is important to you that you are believed, you could make a statement under oath.

To clarify: Such an oath can obviously not be enforced - but that wasn't the question. It is done entirely voluntarily when people make a statement that cannot be proven true or proven false, and it is very important to them that their statement is believed. Especially as an answer to an accusation that cannot be proven or disproven.

A says "I saw B doing X" (which is either true or a lie, but nobody except A and B can know). B says "I declare under oath that I didn't do X". Everyone will now assume that A was lying. Except if A repeats his statement under oath - which means someone has committed a crime and the police will try to put one of them into jail.


Actually, the other answer is incorrect in one respect.

If you are a director of a public company and you say something false that could change the stock price, even to a reporter, you could be in trouble. Elon Musk got in trouble for his tweets and now has to have someone look over them. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/mark-cuban-elon-musk-sec-200719978.html

I'll admit they probably won't throw you in jail for a tweet, but the law would technically permit it, so it is theoretically possible.

They are right about lying in a contract and to the police though. Both can be criminal under the right circumstances.

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    All the above example of fraud, stock manipulation etc. have additional elements to them beyond the falsity of statements made, I'm looking for an example where no such elements are needed. Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 20:21
  • Imprisonment is only possible in the case of fraud.
    – user6726
    Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 21:07
  • @user6726 and the OP, I am not complaining, but what do you consider to be fraud and a false statement then?
    – Putvi
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 18:19
  • I just meant that if you call what Musk did fraud, there's not really a line between actual fraud and your statement being false.
    – Putvi
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 18:28
  • It isn't fraud unless there is financial gain. Conversely, stock manipulation does not necessarily involve falsity. Both involve other elements than lying; as OP says, this takes them out of the ambit of the question. Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 11:35

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