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Issue of the Case:
While this month's case involves a pharmacy technician, the principles of law would apply to a pharmacist or any individual who completes a licensing application. The Iowa Supreme Court was asked to decide if a pharmacy technician was guilty of the crime of perjury when she lied on her application to the State Board of Pharmacy.
Facts of the Case:
Jane Doe applied to the Iowa Board of Pharmacy Examiners for registration as a pharmacy technician. The application form required Doe to disclose various background information, including whether she had ever been charged or convicted of a crime other than a traffic violation. Immediately above the application's signature blank was the statement: "I certify to the Iowa Board of Pharmacy Examiners that the information I have provided on this application is true and correct."
Doe indicated that she had never been charged or convicted of a crime and signed the application. The application was not notarized or otherwise verified. It was later discovered that Doe had been convicted and incarcerated for the felony crime of possession of cocaine with the intent to deliver.
The State of Iowa charged Doe with perjury for failing to reveal the felony offense on her application to the board. Doe moved to dismiss the charge. She argued that she did not commit perjury as a matter of law because the certification on the application did not constitute an oath or affirmation essential to the commission of perjury.
The Court's Ruling:
The trial court dismissed the perjury charge. The Iowa Supreme Court also concluded that, under the circumstances, Doe did not commit perjury by filing the false application with the board.
The Court's Reasoning:
Under our common law history, the crime of perjury could only occur in a judicial proceeding while a person was under oath. Most state legislatures have expanded the definition of perjury to include false statements in any proceeding in which an oath or affirmation is required. Thus, while perjury can be based upon events outside a judicial proceeding, the oath or affirmation requirement remains an essential element of the crime.
In the case at hand, the issue was whether the statement on the Board of Pharmacy application was a lawfully authorized oath. After examining other cases, the court concluded that an oath cannot be accomplished alone. A critical aspect of an oath is that it be given in the presence of an authorized official and in such a manner that ensures that the individual's conscience is bound.
The only instance under Iowa statutes in which the presence of an authorized official is not required is when a written statement certifies that "under penalty of perjury the statement is true and correct." The court found that the "under penalty of perjury" language, like the administration of an oath by an authorized official, acts to bind the conscience of the individual and emphasizes the obligation to be truthful.
In Doe's case, the language of the application fell far short of substantially complying with the requirements of the statute. The language of the application to the board did not indicate that it was executed under penalty of perjury. Without this language, the false statement, to be perjury, was required to have been given in the presence of an authorized official. This was not a requirement in the board application process, and the case was dismissed.
Note: It must be emphasized that a case of perjury is based on criminal law. While the false statement did not meet the criminal requirements of perjury in Iowa, the Board of Pharmacy Examiners had other civil and administrative law remedies available to deal with these circumstances.