If lying by omission really lies
opinion : When do lies have no consequences?
“Notaries are allowed to lie in writing” from April 13th
This is an exciting article! As a normal person, am I allowed to lie in writing with impunity? This is sure to interest a lot of readers and is also highly suitable for everyday use.
Wolfgang Wiek, Berlin-Tempelhof
I am pleased that a notary's lie gives rise to a certain amount of excitement and indignation. The Ten Commandments of the Old Testament do not seem to be forgotten yet. The eighth commandment is commonly quoted as "You shall not lie", and so it is part of the code of our morals. The liar is despised. It is not proper to lie. For Catholics, the lie is a sin. But not everything that we morally despise or call sin leads to legal or even criminal consequences. That means: The lie, i.e. the conscious false assertion of a fact, is not punishable. The liar will be punished if z. B. his lie leads to harm. That can then be fraud. Asserting a false fact about another person can be punishable as defamation. This "false testimony against your neighbor", as the eighth commandment actually reads, can also have disadvantageous consequences under civil law, even if the false assertion was not even deliberately wrong, but only negligently wrong. Our media must therefore research carefully. If you make a false assertion about a person, this person has the right to demand that this assertion be omitted or to have a so-called counter-statement printed. In the area of contract law, too, a lie can have unpleasant consequences for the liar. A contract concluded on the basis of a lie, which our civil law describes as “fraudulent misrepresentation”, can be challenged by the deceived person on the grounds of error or deception, so that it becomes ineffective.
Basically, it doesn't matter whether you lie in writing or orally. One is just as bad as the other. Although the writing is not as fleeting as the spoken word, it seems that the oral lie is more difficult than the written one. Everyone knows that it is usually not easy for you to lie to someone else's face. Many blush, their language changes, the liar likes to avoid the other's gaze, even their posture often changes. All of this does not apply to the written lie. With her you have no counterpart. That is why courts hear witnesses orally. Documents in which witnesses testify to the court what they have seen or heard are therefore of little probative value. Or none at all. Nevertheless, they too can be punishable as at least attempted fraud.
Our notary was lucky with his written lie. Rightly. His false assertion did no harm. Nor was it a forgery of documents. Law students learn the difference between forgery of documents and written lies when they hear their first criminal law lectures. Forgery of documents is only the deception about the identity of the person from whom the document originates. If the content of the document is wrong, there is no forgery, but only a written lie, which is in any case not punishable as forgery. If a minister contradicts the truth and declares to his faculty at the end of his dissertation that he did the work without outside help, then this is not a forgery of documents, just a written lie. The public prosecutor has therefore made the right decision in the case of our notary if they do not consider him to be a criminal offense. So we can only look at him crookedly and turn up our noses. Lying is not the right thing to do. Especially not with a notary, in whose integrity all citizens place special trust.
This also applies to lawyers. Even though they are “organs of the administration of justice”, they are basically allowed to lie. You are only allowed to do so if you violate a criminal law by lying, e.g. B. by lying to your client in a civil process to provide something that is not rightfully his or her right. Then they commit fraudulent proceedings. This is actually quite simple. It is more difficult for the criminal defense attorney, who knows that his client is the perpetrator and still requests an acquittal for him. He's allowed to do that if he's not lying. He is under no obligation to bring the truth to light. That is the sole responsibility of the public prosecutor and the court. This is one of the reasons why defendants tend to remain silent in court. They too are allowed to lie. But lies have short legs, so they are often noticed. He who is silent does not lie.
- Dr. Bernhard Dombek, lawyer
and retired notary, President of
Federal Bar Association a.D.
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