Defamation, Libel, and Threatening Letters

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, the New York Times (NYT) recently filed a motion to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by a University of Florida professor, who alleged that his reputation had been damaged when he claimed that the NYT made him out to be a “covertly paid operative of one of the largest controversial companies in America, Monsanto.” But what is defamation? Or libel for that matter? Words can have equally damaging effects as actions, and the law takes that into consideration with a series of statutes that seek to punish those who make defamatory comments, publish libel information, or make written threats to kill or harm others.

Libel Statements to a Newspaper

Libel is a published false statement that damages another’s reputation. According to Florida statute 836.09, when any person knowingly gives a newspaper false or libelous information that is published, they will be charged with a second degree misdemeanor. If you made a statement to the media about something that you believed to be true, you should not be found guilty of libel. Libel is only giving false information when you know it to be false. A second degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a maximum fine of $500. Anyone who publishes libel themselves will be charged with a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. An owner or editor of a newspaper faces the same first degree misdemeanor for knowingly allowing any writer to publish such libelous material. However, it is very difficult for the prosecution to prove that what you or another person wrote or said was libel because proving what another person did or did not know to be true is no easy task, and requires serious burden of proof such as documents and emails.


Under Florida law, defamation is still defined as speaking falsely and maliciously regarding a woman’s want of chastity, either married or unmarried. However, this can be extended more broadly to a false statement of fact spoken to a third party that is meant to damage an individual’s economic well being or reputation. Defamation is a first degree misdemeanor.

False Statements About a Bank

Making willful and malicious false statements about a bank or loan association regarding the financial condition or solvency of that institution is a first degree misdemeanor whether that statement is rumored, made as a suggestion, written, printed, or made by word of mouth.

Written Threat to Kill or do Bodily Harm

A written threat to kill or do bodily injury to another person or their family is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. This includes any inscription, written statement, electronic communication, or letter, whether signed or anonymous.

Call an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer for Legal Aid Today

If you have been charged with any of these offenses, it is up to your attorney to ensure that you are not unfairly punished or overly penalized for something that you may have not even done or intended to do. The West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyers of the Skier Law Firm encourage you to call us today at (561) 820-1508 to set up a free consultation at once.

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