What is the Law of Seditious Libel in New Jersey and What are the Punishments for It?Seditious libel, as it is perceived and tried today, is greatly different from how it was treated when America was becoming a nation for the first time, and growing as a power. Originally, it was a criminal offense to engage in seditious libel, but today, most states in the country try cases related to this form of libel under civil crimes, such as defamation.
In New Jersey, seditious libel is a punishable offense, but only under certain circumstances. In order for a case to be treated as seditious libel in New Jersey, it must meet certain criteria which were put forward by the judicial system pertaining to seditious libel. The reason behind why this form of libel is treated differently compared to other types is that the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States protects the right to freedom of speech, which belongs to every citizen in the country.
What is considered as seditious libel in the State of New Jersey?
Seditious libel is a crime when the people responsible, irrespective of whether it was one person or more, deliberately and purposefully spread falsehoods against the government with the intent of using actual malice to bring disrepute to the country's governing body. This crime was considered a criminal offense under the English common law. When the American colonists first migrated to the country, they brought with them many of the same ideas and practices within the legal system that was in effect in their old country.
As America developed as a nation and came together to forge its identity, how it reacted to seditious libel changed greatly. There were reasons why this happened. The first was that treating seditious libel as a criminal offense as becoming more and more unpopular in the country, and the second was that the First Amendment of the Constitution guaranteed the right to freedom of speech to all the citizens of America. If every citizen did indeed have the freedom of speech, then at what constituted as seditious libel and what does not?
In addition to this, the Supreme Court passed a ruling in 1925, where it made explicitly clear what stance it took on the matte of seditious libel against freedom of speech. The Supreme Court ruled that neither the federal nor the State government can impede on a citizen's freedom of speech. There is only one condition under which criticizing or having an opinion contrary to that of the government in power is considered a crime.
Seditious libel was cited as an offense owing to the power certain people have towards inciting an insurrection if penalties were not put in place as a guard to dissuade this kind of libel. Libel is any crime where a written format is used to spread defamatory lies against the plaintiff. Where the plaintiff or the person or organization that is being maligned is the government, it is known as seditious libel. However, where there is no danger of insurrection or any kind of immediate danger, then it is not regarded as seditious libel. This is the difference between a group of protesters protesting against a particular government policy, and one that uses made up lies to spread information designed to alarm people and turn them away from the government.
Seditious libel is punishable only when all the conditions are met to qualify it as so. Should the defendant be found guilty, they will be charged with civil penalties as compensation for and fine towards committing seditious libel. If such a person or group of people engaged in criminal behavior while committing the act of seditious libel, they may be tried and punished for those as well.