What is the Law on Seditious libel in Florida and What are the Punishments for it?
In legal terms, seditious libel includes words spoken or expressed in written form, signs, pictures, or other communication formats that criticize, embarrass, or challenge the government, the officials therein, or the governmental policies. Seditious libel also includes speech that urges or incites people to overthrow the government using violence, force, or other unlawful means.
Advocating Specific Seditious Doctrines Is Prohibited in Florida
According to section 876.01 of the Florida Statutes, the following acts of advocacy are strictly prohibited:
- Advocating certain doctrines that encourage bringing down a government formed through constitutional means by the following methods:
o Violence, force or other methods that are a violation of law;
o Assassinating officials of the American government, or officials of the government of any of its states;
- Advocating doctrines that preach overthrowing of a constitutional government through violent, forceful, or other unlawful means, including the doctrines of “criminal Fascism”, “criminal communism”, “criminal anarchy", and “criminal Naziism”.
The following actions are unlawful under the above section:
- Advocating such doctrines as described above through writing, or orally through word-of-mouth;
- Advocating such doctrines by promoting them in an independent capacity, or in association with, or under the directions of, authorities of a foreign state, or officials of an international group, or party engaged in revolutionary acts.
Advocacy of Prohibited Seditious Doctrines is a Crime in Florida
According to section 876.02 of the Florida Statutes, an individual is guilty of committing a seditious criminal act if the individual does any of the following:
- Advocates, either by writing, word of mouth, advisory, or by teaching, the need, duty, or the rightness of bringing down an existing constitutionally-formed government through the following means:
o Use of violence or force;
o The assassination of officials of the American Government, or those of the State;
o Use of any other unlawful methods;
o Associating with, or following the directions of, representatives, authorities, or agents, of a foreign state, or an international body such as a party or group engaged in revolutionary acts.
- Advocates, either by writing, word of mouth, advisory, or by teaching, the need, duty, or the rightness of, disobeying, obstructing or sabotaging, the execution of orders, laws, or decrees, formed through constitutional means by civil, military, or naval authorities; or
- Engages in an act of issuing, editing, printing, publishing, selling, or knowingly circulating or distributing, or displaying in public view any paper, book, document, or any such matter in a printed or written form, that contains, advocates; teaches, or provides an advisory on, a doctrine that preaches overthrowing of a constitutional government through means of force, violence, or other unlawful methods; or
- Advocates or justifies, knowingly and openly, either in writing or by word of mouth, the assaulting, assassination, or killing by unlawful means, of any American government official, or any official of the state, because of a crime or the official character of the said official, with an intention to advocate, teach, or widen the reach of the rightness of doctrines mentioned in sections 876.01; or
- Gets into any group, society, or an assembly of individuals, in the capacity of a member, or organizes, or assists in organizing, such a society, group, or an assembly, that works to advocate or teach such doctrines as those mentioned in sections 876.01; or
- Associates with; spread the interests of; or becomes a part - in the capacity of a member- of; an organization that operates on the principles of doctrines mentioned in sections 876.01; or;
- Becomes a member, gets affiliated with, or assists in organizing, a subsidiary organization or an association of individuals, that works to teach, give advisory, or advocate, the doctrines mentioned in section 876.01.
Penalty for Advocating Prohibited Seditious Doctrines
Any individual accused of committing seditious acts as explained in section 876.02 is guilty of committing a felony of the second degree. The individual, upon conviction, is punishable by imprisonment for a term, not more than 15 years or a fine of an amount not more than $10, 000, or both.