My ex mother-in-law called me a "deadbeat dad" on my Facebook wall. I can prove that I am compliant with all my support obligations. She couldn't reasonably believe the statement to be true. I am a professional and believe she deliberately posted it to my wall where my friends, colleagues and former graduate and undergraduate classmates could see it (before I removed it). She lives in Las Vegas and I understand Nevada has a criminal libel statute. If I report this to the authorities, will they ignore me and tell me it's a civil matter? I really don't want to waste the time and resources on a lawsuit. Even if they don't prosecute, can law enforcement do something for me to show her the seriousness of what she's done and perhaps convince her to not do it again? Thanks in advance.
Car / Auto Accident Lawyer
On the federal level, there are no criminal defamation or insult laws in the United States. However, on the state level, seventeen states and two territories as of 2005 had criminal defamation laws on the books: Colorado (Colorado Revised Statutes, § 18-13-105), Florida (Florida Statutes, § 836.01-836.11), Idaho (Idaho Code, § 18-4801-18-4809), Kansas (Kansas Statute Annotated, §21-6103(a)(1)), Louisiana (Louisiana R.S., 14:47), Michigan (Michigan Compiled Laws, § 750.370), Minnesota (Minnesota Statutes. § 609.765), Montana (Montana Code Annotated, § 13-35-234), New Hampshire (New Hampshire Revised Statute Annotated, § 644:11), New Mexico (New Mexico Statute Annotated, §30-11-1), North Carolina (North Carolina General Statutes, § 14-47), North Dakota (North Dakota Century Code, § 12.1-15-01), Oklahoma (Oklahoma Statutes, tit. 21 §§ 771-781), Utah (Utah Code Annotated, § 76-9-404), Virginia (Virginia Code Annotated, § 18.2-417), Washington (Washington Revised Code, 9.58.010 [Repealed in 2009]), Wisconsin (Wisconsin Statutes, § 942.01), Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Laws, tit. 33, §§ 4101-4104) and Virgin Islands (Virgin Islands Code, Title 14, § 1172).
Between 1992 and August 2004, 41 criminal defamation cases were brought to court in the United States, among which six defendants were convicted. From 1965 to 2004, 16 cases ended in final conviction, among which nine resulted in jail sentences (average sentence, 173 days). Other criminal cases resulted in fines (average fine, 1700 USD), probation (average of 547 days), community service (on average 120 hours), or writing a letter of apology.Defamation law in the United States is much less plaintiff-friendly than its counterparts in European and the Commonwealth countries, due to the enforcement of the First Amendment. One very important distinction today is that European and Commonwealth jurisdictions adhere to a theory that every publication of a defamation gives rise to a separate claim, so that a defamation on the Internet could be sued on in any country in which it was read, while American law only allows one claim for the primary publication.
In the United States, a comprehensive discussion of what is and is not libel or slander is difficult, because the definition differs between different states. Some states codify what constitutes slander and libel together into the same set of laws. Some states have criminal libel laws on the books, though these are old laws which are very infrequently prosecuted. Washington State has held its criminal libel statute unconstitutional applying the state and federal constitutions to the question.
Most defendants in defamation lawsuits are newspapers or publishers, which are involved in about twice as many lawsuits as are television stations. Most plaintiffs are corporations, businesspeople, entertainers and other public figures, and people involved in criminal cases, usually defendants or convicts but sometimes victims as well. In no state can a defamation claim be successfully maintained if the allegedly defamed person is deceased.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 generally immunizes from liability parties that create forums on the Internet in which defamation occurs from liability for statements published by third parties. This has the effect of precluding all liability for statements made by persons on the Internet whose identity cannot be determined.
In the various states, whether by case law or legislation, there are generally several "privileges" that can get a defamation case dismissed without proceeding to trial. These include the litigation privilege, which makes statements made in the context of litigation non-actionable, and the allegedly defamatory statement being "fair comment and criticism", as it is important to society that everyone be able to comment on matters of public interest.
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Nevada does have a criminal libel statute, NRS 200.510, which provides:
1. A libel is a malicious defamation, expressed by printing, writing, signs, pictures or the like, tending to blacken the memory of the dead, or to impeach the honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation, or to publish the natural defects of a living person or persons, or community of persons, or association of persons, and thereby to expose them to public hatred, contempt or ridicule.
2. Every person, whether the writer or publisher, convicted of the offense is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
3. In all prosecutions for libel the truth may be given in evidence to the jury, and, if it shall appear to the jury that the matter charged as libelous is true and was published for good motive and for justifiable ends, the party shall be acquitted, and the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the fact.
While you may report the act to the authorities, I wouldn't count on much actually happening. Moreover, you may have difficulty proving that anyone actually saw the post since it has been removed.
Just as you really don't want to waste the time and resources on a lawsuit, neither will any prosecutor!
P.S. Stay on top of your child support obligations. You going to a D.A. asking for prosecution because an in-law called you a deadbeat is far more likely to raise suspicions about you staying current. And child support enforcement is something that D.A.'s *do* take seriously, as opposed to defamation.