What is the Law of Seditious Libel in Missouri and What are the Punishments for It?
Seditious libel is a kind of defamation that is particularly in the context of the government. It is considered a crime to deliberately defame the government using malicious intent, as such behavior could both adversely affect the reputation of the government, the perception of the people towards it, as well as how effectively the government can carry out its duties.
The United States treats cases related to seditious libel in a manner that is different from how it used t. Colonial America carried with it many of the ideas adopted from the United Kingdom. However, since then both the views on what is considered as seditious libel as well as how it is judged and punished has changed considerably.
What is Considered as Seditious Libel in the State of Missouri?
The Sedition Act of 1798 made it illegal to deliberately spread false information, or defame the government, the members of the Congress or the President, especially where the intent behind spreading such libel is real malice.
Since then, this law has undergone various changes that reflected the evolving nature of the country and its questions on what constitutes as seditious libel and what constitutes freedom of speech. For this reason, seditious libel is somewhat related to First Amendment Rights. The right to free speech makes it so that a person's opinion can not be considered as defamation. It is only when they knowingly spread a falsehood as the truth, and this is done with the intent to malign the character of the government and its employees, will such an act be considered as seditious libel.
In Missouri, cases related to seditious libel are closely connected to cases related to defamation. However, anyone found guilty of seditious libel will be dealt with more harshly and receive more severe punishments than cases related to defamation of character. In order for a case to be considered as defamation, the plaintiff must prove that the statement used to defame them is false and that such information was dissemination with the deliberate intent to malign.
What this means is that if someone spreads libel or slander, where they either said openly that they were spreading falsehood or where the intention was not intended to deliberately malign, then such a situation will not be considered as defamation.
What are the Punishments for Seditious Libel in the State of Missouri?
Crimes related to defamation fall under the category of civil crimes. Unless a situation also includes a scenario where a criminal act is involved, cases that are civil crimes are not typically punishable by jail time.
Cases related to defamation usually seek financial compensation for the damages caused by the defendant. The plaintiff must also prove that the intention behind the defendant spreading their misinformation was to deliberately harm the government. However where seditious libel is considered, the sentences delivered will always be harsher than when in civil lawsuits between citizens. At the same time, if the information spread was the truth then it is not considered defamation.
The punishment that will be meted out in cases related to seditious libel is dependant on the kind of misinformation spread, and the damage that was caused by such information being spread. If legal actions that can be tried under criminal law were used in the process of spreading such seditious libel, then the defendant will be tried for those crimes as well. Seditious libel applies both to cases involving slander, that is, verbal defamation as well as libel, that is, written defamation of the government.