It is not strange to hear in many television programs the legal terms libel and slander. However, it is not common to explain the difference between the two, which is why many people tend to confuse them. Here we are going to explain exactly what is the difference between libel and slander.
Basic precepts and foundations of crimes against honor
Before delving into the difference between slander and injury, it must be said that both are considered crimes against honor . Therefore, first of all, we have to go to article 18.1 of the Spanish Constitution, which is responsible for guaranteeing the right to honor, family and personal privacy and the proper image of any subject.
Obviously, this right to honor has a special relationship with the freedoms of expression and information. In fact, when it is violated, it is usually in the exercise of either of those two freedoms. This means that the Spanish Constitution, in its article 24.4, establishes the limits of both in the provisions of article 18.1 previously mentioned. In other words, freedom of expression and information ends when the right to honor, self-image, and family and personal privacy begins.
It seems evident that the Spanish Constitution is very sparing in establishing the definition of the right to honor and the limits of freedom of expression and information. Therefore, crimes against him are typified and better defined in Organic Law 10/1995, of November 23, of the Penal Code. Specifically, they are represented in Chapter II of Title XI of Book II and, specifically, in Articles 205 and 208.
Article 205 of the Penal Code: slander
Let’s start by defining the crime of slander. Specifically, the Penal Code defines it as the imputation of a crime carried out against a subject knowing their falsity or committing a reckless contempt for the truth.
To punish this crime, the Penal Code establishes the following penalties:
Fine from 6 to 12 months or prison sentence from 6 to 24 months.
In the event that the crime was publicized through any means of communication (social networks, press, etc.), the prison sentence would remain the same, but the fine would amount to between 1 and 2 years.
Of course, in case the person denounced for slander can demonstrate that the accused person has committed the crime in question, he will be exonerated from any criminal liability.
Article 208 of the Penal Code: injury
This is defined as any action or expression that damages the dignity, fame or self-esteem of a subject. The complexity of this honor crime is that it can take a variety of forms. In fact, to cite some example of injury, we could say that expressions like ‘son of a bitch’ can have this consideration, but also any value judgment.
It should also be noted that the Penal Code only considers these actions as a crime when they can be classified as serious. But how can this be determined? It would be necessary to enter, in these cases, the intention of the subject that formulates the words, as well as the context and the time in which they are emitted.
The penalties established for this crime are:
Fine between 3 and 6 months.
In case the injury was carried out with publicity, the fine would be from 6 to 14 months.
If it is done in exchange for a reward, to the previous fine should be added a period of disqualification for public office or for the profession that lasted between 6 and 24 months.
For its part, if we were faced with an example of injury done against a public official in the exercise of their duties, the person who committed it would not have any criminal responsibility if he shows that what he said in his statements is true.
Similarity and difference between injury and slander
After what has been said, it is evident that both crimes have a series of elements in common. In fact, there are assumptions in which the two receive the same treatment. Let’s see them:
- Advertising: in both cases it is an aggravating circumstance that is considered to happen when the criminal expression is spread through television, the written press or the radio, but also through social networks. This makes the media that helps its spread be jointly liable for the crime.
- The complaint : no one can be charged and punished for any of the two crimes if the offended subject does not file a complaint in the corresponding court, that is, there is no ex officio action in this case.
- Rectification: in both cases, the accused of having committed the crime can recognize its falsehood or retract their statements. In that case, the lower penalty will be automatically imposed and, if the judge deems it appropriate, will eliminate the effect of the disqualification.
- Forgiveness : if the plaintiff forgives the accused of his action, his criminal responsibility is extinguished unless the crime refers to a disabled person or a minor (article 130.1, second paragraph of the Penal Code).
- The repair of the damage: the accused, once convicted, will not only have to face the penalty imposed by the judge, but also disclose the conviction in the same way as he did with his criminal action.
That said, we can definitely focus on the difference between slander and injury:
Injurious action refers necessarily to offensive objective acts whose purpose is to damage the fame, public image or self-esteem of another person. Furthermore, for it to be considered as such, there must be a clear intention to cause such damage.
On the other hand, for us to be able to speak of slander, it is essential that one subject attribute to another the commission of a certain crime, such as forgery of a public document or theft. As in the previous case, there must be evidence that the accuser does so knowing that it is not true.
Difference between lawsuit and complaint
This is another question that raises doubts. In fact, both terms are also very often confused. In summary, we can say that a lawsuit is an official act that accuses a natural or legal person of having committed an action with civil, labor or administrative responsibility.
A complaint, like a complaint, has the same purpose, but refers to crimes established in the Penal Code.
What do I do if I have been insulted or slandered? What if I have received a lawsuit for a crime against honor?
In the first case, it is essential to file a criminal complaint against the person who has made the accusations or who has given a testimony against you that damages your integrity. Keep in mind that these are private crimes that cannot be prosecuted ex officio, however high their severity.
Now, if you are the one who receives the complaint and the judicial summons, our advice is to put yourself in the hands of a specialized criminal lawyer as soon as possible. He will advise you and will be in charge of defending yourself throughout the process.
Ultimately, we hope to have made clear the difference between libel and slander. As you may have seen, they are crimes against honor that bear certain similarities, but should not be confused when referring to different actions and having different punishments according to the Penal Code.