In Finch v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed convictions for false swearing, holding that the defendant was lawfully under oath even though he did not raise his right hand and take an oath, because language in the affidavits he signed purported to be an acknowledgement of oath or affirmation.
The record showed that the defendant owned and developed real estate to sell to home buyers. For each property, he signed a notarized affidavit stating that the materials used in construction had been paid for and there was no outstanding debt for construction. During a jury trial, witnesses testified that debts from building materials had not been paid at closing. The defendant was convicted of 25 counts of false swearing in violation of O.C.G.A. § 16-10-71(a).
He appealed, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence. Specifically, the defendant argued that no one at the closing swore him in, he did not raise his right hand and take an oath, and the notary did not personally witness his signature of the affidavits. According to the defendant, this meant that there was no lawful oath which he could have violated.
The Court cited the false swearing statute, which reads: “A person to whom a lawful oath or affirmation has been administered or who executes a document knowing that it purports to be an acknowledgement of a lawful oath or affirmation commits the offense of false swearing when, in any matter or thing other than a judicial proceeding, he knowingly and willfully makes a false statement.” The Court stated that because Finch’s affidavits included language which purported to acknowledge an oath or affirmation, the evidence was sufficient to support his convictions for false swearing.
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