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What is the Law of Seditious Libel in Hawaii and what are its Punishments?

When English colonists first came to the United States centuries ago, they brought many ideas and concepts along with them. One of these concepts was seditious libel, which made it a criminal offense if you made or published statements criticizing or questioning the government. It was illegal for a citizen to challenge the government, its officials, and policies, as it was believed that this could encourage others to overthrow the government using unlawful means.

The severity of seditious libel became a hot topic for discussion among citizens as well as the Congress because it stood in the way of an individual’s freedom of speech. Over the years, U.S. citizens embraced the First Amendment to the Constitution and exercised their freedom of speech. They expressed their personal opinions and views on the government and Congress was forced to accept them, regardless of whether the views were positive or not. This eventually led to seditious libel becoming a less serious crime, but the U.S. government came up with the Seditious Conspiracy and Federal Law to ensure that actions with an intent to revolt against lawful authorities are curbed.

History of Sedition in America

The Sedition Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1918 under the reign of President Woodrow Wilson to protect the country’s involvement in World War I. This act came into being soon after the Espionage Act was passed in 1917.

The Sedition Act was primarily aimed at activists, pacifists, and socialists. According to this act, anyone who was found making false or incorrect statements that impeded the war and its prosecution or insulted the government, military, or President, would face harsh penalties. Individuals found guilty of sedition were to face punishments that included a fine not exceeding $10,000 and jail time of a maximum of 20 years.

Hawaii Seditious Libel Laws

The central goal of the Sedition Act was to control the spread of unwarranted protests within the U.S. during the war. But the act was contested by legal scholars who said that it goes against the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Sedition Laws in Hawaii

After Hawaii became an official state of the U.S. in 1959, laws of the country became the laws of the state. Hawaii also followed the Seditious Conspiracy and Federal Law to control the act of sedition within the state.

A sedition is an act where you advocate the overthrowing of the government through publication, speeches, or organization. It also includes supporting an enemy during a war. You can find the Seditious Conspiracy and Federal law in the U.S. Code under Title 18. This title also includes similar crimes such as rebellion, mutiny, and treason.

According to the sedition laws in Hawaii, it is illegal for two or more people:

  • Intend to rebel against lawful military authorities
  • Intend to overthrow civic authorities
  • Intend to revolt or overthrow the state or federal government
  • Create disturbances or violence with the intent of mutiny
  • Fail to prevent sedition or mutiny committed by another person in their presence

Hawaii laws state that sedition is a punishable offense that involves heavy fines and jail time of up to 20 years. If you are facing charges of sedition in Hawaii, the government must prove that you conspired to use force in your seditious acts and not simply claimed or advocated for the need for the use of force. Citizens in Hawaii are protected under the First Amendment and are allowed to exercise free speech. It is not illegal to share your ideas and views about the government in Hawaii. But if you are found acting on these ideas by planning attacks and revolting against lawful authority, you will be found guilty of sedition.


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