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What is the Law of Seditious Libel in Louisiana and What are the Punishments for it?

In the state of Louisiana, defamation is defined as a means of communication- either spoken or written- meant to specifically harm an individual's reputation, business, or livelihood. In addition to this, a private person has the option of suing another person without being able to prove actual malice on their behalf. They can simply prove that the defendant was negligent and dismissive when talking about the victim with a third party.

Penalties for Seditious Libel in the state of Louisiana

If someone has been convicted of defamation in one form or another, they are faced with maximum jail time of up to 6 months, a fine of up to $500, or both, depending on the severity of the defamation, and the damages that were incurred to the victim.

Public Persons Vs. Private Persons

A movie or television personality, a government official, or any person who is regularly seen on the news or is written about is considered to be a "public figure" in the state of Louisiana. A public figure usually wins cases of defamation with difficulty, as they have to prove actual malice, showing that there was intent to malign their character.

On the other hand, private persons do not have to face such difficulties. They simply have to prove that the article in question as a result of negligent reporting.

Louisiana Seditious Libel Laws
Damages for Seditious Libel in the State of Louisiana

Penalties in the state of Louisiana for seditious slander and defamation result in the following damages:

  • Compensation for actual damages that were suffered by the victim.
  • Punitive damages- that is fines or compensation to the victim for the monetary, social, or career loss that they had to be subject to.
  • Damages that have been sanctioned by the court, either in the form of court fines, compensation to the victim, or making the entire payment of the case.

If the party that was accused of libel was a media outlet, simply publishing and issuing a public apology will not be enough in order to dissolve the case. They will have to compensate the victim in one form or another for all the damages that they caused.

Acceptable Defenses for Seditious Libel in the State of Louisiana

The state of Louisiana recognizes Section 320 as an acceptable defense for the charge of seditious libel. Also known as the Communications Decency Act, Section 320 holds within itself the following defenses:

  • The statement that was published by the accused was the absolute truth. However, for this defense, the onus falls completely on the accused to prove that they believed the statement to be the absolute truth during the time of publishing the article.
  • The accused can also claim that the statement of the article under review falls under the concept of 'privilege', thus they cannot be held responsible for the crime of seditious libel. Privilege is a scenario where an individual or a group has the legal right to perform an action, thus, they cannot be held accountable for committing that action. For example, a blogger who wrote an article about a woman misbehaving at a grocery store can claim that she did so because it was her legal obligation to report the news.
  • An accused individual or group can win a court case of seditious libel if it is proved in the court of law that the aggrieved party did not experience any kind of monetary or material losses and damages. However, for this to be sufficiently proved, the accused individual will have to show sufficient documentation in this regard.

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