Utah Lawyer for Criminal Code § 76-9-5 Libel
At some point, everyone has heard a scandalous rumor about someone else. Common sense tells us that rumors are often false and should not be taken seriously. However, this does not stop rumors from damaging the reputations of the people about which they purport to be. Spreading false information about someone else in an attempt to discredit them or damage their reputation or public image is more than mere rumor spreading or gossip. It is a criminal offense in the State of Utah and is punishable by law.
Spreading false information is more than just meaningless gossip. Depending on how it is spread, misinformation can severely damage a person’s reputation. A person guilty of such an offense may face criminal penalties in addition to a civil lawsuit by the alleged victim. The penalties for libel could haunt you for years to come. If you have been charged with libel, contact our experienced Utah lawyer for Criminal Code § 76-9-5 libel at Overson Law, PLLC Call (801) 758-2287 to schedule a free legal consultation.
Definition of Libel in Utah
Essentially, the crime of libel occurs when someone publishes information they know is false about another person and will cast the victim in a negative light. Libel is easily confused for a very similar crime known as slander. The difference between libel and slander is that libel is generally published, while slander is spoken. Libel charges can be applied to a person who submits false information to a publication and the publication itself. The key element is the knowledge of the publishing parties. Libel entails the publisher, or the person providing the publisher with information, know that the information is false before it is published.
In addition to criminal penalties, a victim of libel may sue you in civil court. If you lose in civil court, you will most likely have to pay the victim a hefty compensation. In a civil trial, the alleged victim must prove damages, meaning they somehow suffered as a result of the publication. If their reputation was damaged in such a way that they lost their job or perhaps their business suffered, they are more likely to succeed. You should contact our Utah lawyer for Criminal Code § 76-9-5 libel to determine your best defense.
Publication for the purposes of libel does not always have to be a publication in the traditional sense. A radio or television broadcast can also be considered a publication for purposes of libel. Whether the misinformation is published in written words or broadcasted by radio or television, the rules apply the same. Knowingly conveying false information by any method of publication may be considered libel.
Penalties for Libel in Utah
Libel is a class B misdemeanor and is punishable by no more than 6 months in prison. This punishment may seem like a small price to pay for an offense that could potentially destroy a person’s reputation in their community, but libel charges can add up pretty quickly. You can be charged with multiple counts of libel depending on how many times your false information was published and how many publishers to which you submitted the information. One charge of libel may only carry a maximum penalty of 6 months in prison, but three, four, or five counts would result in years behind bars.
You might also pay a civil penalty for libel. If you are sued by the alleged victim civilly, you may end up paying financial compensation to the victim depending on how severe their damages were. If your libelous actions caused the victim to lose their job, they could sue you for all their lost wages. If you face accusations of libel, call our Utah lawyer for Criminal Code § 76-9-5 libel as soon as possible.
Defenses Against Libel in Utah
The crime of libel may seem antithetical to the concept of free speech. We are allowed to say what we want when we want, and the government cannot punish us for what we say. This right only extends so far. However, free speech does not encompass a speaker knowingly spreading lies with the intent to harm someone else. Libel can sometimes be hard to identify. The line between truth and lies can sometimes become distorted in the world of news reporting. There are several instances in which the news publication’s interests win out over the victim’s libelous claims.
First, a reporter, editor, or some other publisher of information cannot be charged with libel for reporting on any judicial or legislative proceedings. This privilege also includes any other public hearing or proceeding. This privilege covers any statements made in the course of these public hearings or proceedings. However, the reports or publications of these proceedings must be fair and true. Maliciously distorting the truth may constitute libel.
Other times, you may publish information to another person that may be considered privileged and will be immune from libel. According to Utah law, a communication made between two people who have a genuine interest in the information is not presumed malicious and the communication is privileged. To determine what kind of defense you have to libel charges, call our experienced Utah lawyer for Criminal Code § 76-9-5 libel for guidance.
Call Our Utah Attorney for Criminal Code § 76-9-5 Libel for a Free Legal Consultation
Libel is a very serious charge and could result in both criminal and civil penalties. An attorney can help you figure out the best defense for your case and protect your rights in court. If you or someone you know has been charged with libel, you should contact our skilled and experienced Utah lawyer for Criminal Code § 76-9-5 libel. Call (801) 758-2287 to schedule a free legal consultation.