False accusations are a commonality in the justice system. In fact, data shows that “more than half of exonerations involve…false accusation.” When proven innocent in a case of false accusations, you have the opportunity to sue for defamation. If this happens to you or someone you know, you may get confused by the three terms that are often correlated with a wrongful accusation: defamation, slander, and libel. All these terms have to do with falsely debasing someone’s character. Below we’ll discuss what defamation is and the differences between libel and slander.
What is Defamation?
Defamation is a false statement that’s presented as a fact, which causes injury or damage to a person’s character. If someone makes an untrue statement that damages a person’s reputation, ability to work, and so on, this is defamation. When an individual presents this false statement or accusation to other people, not just the person the statement is about, this is also defamation. There are two different types of defamation: libel and slander. Read on for the distinctions between them.
Key Differences Between Libel and Slander
What is Libel?
Libel is an untrue defamatory statement that an individual writes down. These acts must show that a person’s statement to a third party harmed your reputation. As such, cases wherein a person is falsely accused and then proven innocent, any written statements used against them are libel per se. The form of libel that most people hear of is seditious libel. The Sedition Act of 1798 made it a crime to print anything false about Congress, the government, or the president. However, this rule changed—it now says a statement against a public figure is only considered libel if it’s known to be false or the speaker has a reckless disregard for the truth.
What is Slander?
Slander is an oral untrue defamatory statement. Statements like these often don’t end up being enough for a defamation lawsuit. However, if the statement to a third party truly harmed your reputation then that is slander per se—the statements are defamatory without need for special review. If you decide to sue over a slanderous statement that’s not necessarily considered slander per se, you’ll need to prove special damages. An example of a slanderous statement is a speech or something said on television.
If you or someone you know has been falsely accused of a crime, reach out to Jared Justice—a defamation, criminal defense, and prostitution attorney in Portland, Oregon.