Judge’s Corner

Section 45-8-212 MCA.  Criminal Defamation.

By Nicole M. Benefiel

Justice of the Peace City Judge

Topic:  Criminal Defamation – Slander & Libel

   Section 45-8-212 MCA.  Criminal Defamation.  (1)  Defamatory matter is anything that exposes a person or a group, class, or association to hatred, contempt, ridicule, degradation, or disgrace in society or injury to the person’s or its business or occupation.  (2) Whoever, with knowledge of its defamatory character, orally, in writing, or by any other means, including by electronic communication, as defined in 45-8-213, communicates any defamatory matter to a third person without the consent of the person defamed commits the offense of criminal defamation and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 6 months in the county jail or a fine of not more than $500, or both.

   Section 45-2-101 MCA Defamatory matter defined.  “Defamatory matter” means anything that exposes a person or a group, class, or association to hatred, contempt, ridicule, degradation, or disgrace in society or to injury to the person’s or its business or occupation.

   DEFAMATION:  (As defined by the Black’s Law Dictionary)  An intentional false communication, either published or publicly spoken, that injures another’s reputation or good name.  Holding up of a person to ridicule, scorn or contempt in a respectable and considerable part of the community; may be criminal as well as civil.  Includes both libel and slander.  Defamation is that which tends to injure reputation; to diminish the esteem, respect, goodwill or confidence in which the plaintiff is held, or to excite adverse, derogatory or unpleasant feelings or opinions against him.  Statement which exposes person to contempt, hatred, ridicule or obloquy. The unprivileged publication of false statements which naturally and proximately result in injury to another.  A communication is defamatory if it tends so to harm the reputation of another as to lower him in the estimation of the community or to deter third persons from associating or dealing with him.  The meaning of a communication is that which the recipient correctly, or mistakenly but reasonably, understands that it was intended to express.

   Section 27-1-801 MCA Defamation – how effected.  Defamation is effected by:  (1) Libel; (2) Slander.

   Section 27-1-803 MCA.  Slander Defined.   Slander is a false and unprivileged publication other than libel which:  (1)  charges any person with crime or with having been indicted, convicted, or punished for crime; (2) imputes in him the present existence of an infectious, contagious or loathsome disease; (3) tends directly to injure him in respect to his office, profession, trade, or business, either by imputing to him general disqualification in those respects which the office or other occupation peculiarly requires or by imputing something with reference to his office, profession, trade, or business that has a natural tendency to lessen its profit; (4) imputes to him impotence or want of chastity; or (5) by natural consequence causes actual damage.

   SLANDER:  (As defined by the Black’s Law Dictionary) The speaking of base and defamatory words tending to prejudice another in his reputation, community standing, office, trade, business, or means of livelihood.  Little Stores v Isenberg, 26 Tenn.App. 357, 172 S.W.2d 13, 16.  Oral  defamation; the speaking of false and malicious words concerning another, whereby injury results to his reputation.  Lloyd v Commissioner of Internal Revenue, C.C.A.7, 55 F.2d. 842, 844.   

   Section 27-1-802 MCA  Libel defined.  Libel is a false and unprivileged publication by writing, printing, picture, effigy, or other fixed representation that exposes any person to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy or causes a person to be shunned or avoided or that has a tendency to injure a person in the person’s occupation.

   Wacky/Fun Laws:  Baker, Ore., forbids speaking to a female against her will.  In Spencer, Iowa, it is against the law to make personal remarks about any passerby.