Defamation of Character: Libel & Slander
Defamation of character is when someone spreads lies about you and taints your reputation. Texas law lets you seek compensation for this. If you can show that their untrue statements caused you harm, you might be able to take legal action against the individual or company responsible.
Actually, there are two distinct legal claims that divide defamation of character.
- Libel is a defamation of character type that occurs in written or printed form. This can include defamatory statements published in newspapers, magazines, books, online articles, social media posts, blogs, or any other written medium.
- Slander refers to defamation of character that occurs through spoken words, gestures, or other non-written forms. This can include defamatory statements made in conversations, speeches, interviews, radio or television broadcasts, podcasts, or other oral communication.
If someone writes and publishes false information that hurts your reputation and character, you can use Texas law to seek justice. There are two main types of libel laws: Libel Per Se and Libel Per Quod.
Libel Per Se
Libel per se means obviously harmful written words. If the plaintiff meets the elements of showing that the statement against them is false, they can be awarded compensation. No matter how awful the statement is, the plaintiff often has to prove that the statement resulted in actual harm to their reputation because defamation law is a form of tort law.
Libel Per Quod
Libel per quod means a written statement can harm someone’s reputation based on how people understand it. Unlike libel per se, the person affected needs to claim special damages and show more evidence.
An example of libel per quod is when there’s a lottery winner announcement. Not libelous until people find out that one of the winners is a minister from a church that opposes gambling, including the lottery.
People temporarily utter or gesticulate slander, as it also includes body gestures, such as in the case of sign language.
There are two types of compensation if charged with defamation of character: general damages and special damages. General damages are for the emotional pain caused by the trauma, and special damages are for the money or economic losses caused by false statements.
There are two main types of slander: Slander and Slander Per Se.
In the first type of slander, the person harmed must show that the defendant did something harmful to at least one other person and that it caused them real harm, or what we referred to as special damages, like losing customers or getting fired.
Slander Per Se
Another type of slander automatically receives general damages without needing to prove special damages. This is because certain types of harmful statements are already considered damaging. For this to happen, the slander must fall into one of the following categories:
- making false accusations of a crime against someone.
- making untrue statements about someone’s character or integrity.
- disseminating false information about someone’s professional competence.
- stating falsehoods about someone’s health or medical condition.
- Another individual is spreading false stories or talking negatively about the person in question.
Legal Distinction Between Freedom of Expression & Defamation
In defamation of character law, there is an important distinction between expressing an opinion and defaming someone. An opinion is something that can’t be proven true or false, while a defamatory statement implies an untrue accusation that harms someone’s reputation. The news media is cautious when talking about crime accusations, using the word “allegedly” to report without expressing their own opinion.
To prove defamation, it’s crucial to show that the false statement was made with a certain intent. It must have been said with knowledge of its falsehood or reckless disregard for the truth. For private citizens, negligence in determining the truth can also be enough to prove defamation. This makes it easier for private citizens to show defamation compared to public figures.
In some states, specific statements are automatically considered defamation, such as falsely accusing someone of a serious crime, having a serious infectious disease, or being incompetent in their profession.
Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!
If your freedom of expression has led to you being accused of a crime, it’s essential to have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side. At Texas Criminal Defense Group, we will carefully analyze all aspects of your case and conduct a thorough investigation. By understanding the facts and circumstances surrounding the allegations, our teams of experts will craft a robust defense strategy that is specifically designed to address your unique situation.
Having a defense lawyer who is well-versed in the complexities of the law can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. We work tirelessly to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf throughout the legal process. With expertise, we strive to ensure that your freedom of expression is fully protected while effectively addressing any criminal implications. Your defense will be personalized to match the specific circumstances of your situation, increasing the likelihood of a favorable resolution.