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What is the Law on Seditious libel in Minnesota and What are the Punishments for it?

Defamation, as a law, is not defined by any Minnesota Statute. However, it is a common law that is defined in a Minnesota Case Law. Simply put, defamation is an untrue statement which has been published to a third party and harms the reputation of the person in question. Obviously, the statement can either be intentional or unintentional, that is, a publication can be paid in order to print lies and slander about another individual, business, or organization.

Slander can be done in both a written as well as a spoken format. Spoken defamation is known as slander, while a written statement is termed as seditious libel.

Defamation cases are usually considered to be a civil matter in the state of Minnesota, where the cases can be resolved through a monetary settlement. Up until 2015, defamation by an individual could be enough to land them in jail, till the punishment was marked as unconstitutional and was struck down. Different standards apply, depending on the following aspects:

  • Whether the defamed claimant is an individual or a business.
  • Whether the defamed claimant is a private person or a public person.
  • Whether the defamed claimant was a citizen of Minnesota, or whether the claims harmed any other person from a different state.

In addition to this, a case of defamation has to be analyzed on a case to case basis, as every case differs from the other due to facts. There can be no blanket rule when it comes to a case of defamation.

Minnesota Seditious Libel Laws
The Different Aspects of Defamation

When it comes to defamation, the victim of the crime must establish through proof that the statement which was defamatory contained the following statements:

  • The statement was conveyed to a third party, and not to the victim- the victim only came to know about the slander when they came in contact with the third party.
  • The victim must provide ample proof that the statement that was proclaimed is untrue, and must provide substantiated evidence to back their claim.
  • The statement intended to attack the victim from a moral point of view, lower their reputation socially, and lower their stature in the eyes of the community.

Private Persons Vs. Public Persons

Private Persons

A private person who a single individual simply has to prove that the defamatory sentence was nothing but a black- and- white case of negligence. In addition to this, they have to confirm, with thorough proof, that the statement in question is utterly false.

Public Persons

With a public person, however, the matter is very different. They have to prove that there was actual malice behind the intentions of the slanderer to malign them, and not simply through a case of false news. As public people tend to get embroiled in a number of controversies, there could be a situation where they must have commented on a situation, due to which the article was released. Thus, a public person will have to prove that they have never said anything about the situation in any regard and that there is actual falsehood behind the article of the publication.

Punishment for Seditious Libel in Minnesota

In the state of Minnesota, if an individual gets convicted of seditious libel, they will have to compensate their victim with genera damages, for issues such as mental and emotional distress, as well as compensation for the loss of their reputation. In addition to this,special damages are also incurred, which covers the monetary loss of the individual. In some special cases, the victim is also liable for punitive damages.


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