Understanding the State of Illinois Slander Laws and the Elements of a Defamation Case
Defamation is a serious crime that occurs when someone makes false and harmful statements about you. There are two types of defamation, “libel”, which refers to a statement in writing or posted online, and “slander”, which is spoken. In terms of establishing a defamation case, the libel or slander must have been published in some way, resulting in harm to the subject’s reputation, future opportunities, and even physical or mental health.
As a response to this crime, many choose to file a “cease and desist” letter, telling the individual making injurious claims to stop before further legal action is taken. Learn more about defamation and how to understand the State of Illinois’s particular laws, below.
How to Define Defamation?
Slander Versus Libel
As mentioned, the two elements of defamation are slander and libel:
- Libel can also be distinguished by the fact that it leaves a permanent record, like an email, radio or TV broadcast, newspaper article, or website posting
- Slander does not have a permanent record and can be as simple as a spoken statement or a hand gesture
Distinguishing the type of defamation that occurred is the first step to proving any defamation claim, or establishing whether you can send a cease and desist letter.
What is Not Defamation?
Although proving defamation seems like an easy and clear process, different legal loopholes prevent claims from being identified as slander or libel:
- A statement of opinion cannot be defamatory, as defamation must be proven true or false.
- A loophole exists; if a defamatory statement is not identified as an opinion and is published, you may have the grounds to sue for slander or libel.
Freedom of Speech
- Concerning the First Amendment, individuals have a right to not be subjected to falsehoods that impugn their character.
- Essentially, defamation is not illegal by legal terms. Defamation is just a pretense of the legal system to pay damages to people who have been harmed by freedom of speech.
- A false light claim exists when a defamatory statement about an individual is published, implying that the statement is true when it is false.
- False light is established to “protect the plaintiff’s mental and emotional well-being” rather than reputation, which defamation protects.
- Disparagement protects the financial and economic interests of the plaintiff or their products.
- Defamation strives to protect personal interests, but disparagement covers more extrapersonal boundaries, like property ownership and non-liquid assets.
The State of Illinois and Online Defamation
It is possible to prove online defamation, but it is also extremely difficult to decide to pursue legal action. In Illinois, anyone who harasses another person through electronic communications may be guilty of a crime.
It is a Class 4 Felony under Illinois law to use electronic communication methods to:
- Target an individual or third party online
- Target an individual online, causing emotional harm and distress
- Target an individual online, making a threat against the target or family member, causing suspicion of immediate or future bodily harm, assault, sexual assault, or confinement
- Solicit another person to commit a technological crime against another individual
- Utilize a website that was accessible for at least 24 hours to harass, threaten or perform a criminal act against another individual
Illinois and Online Defamation
- Illinois defines “course of conduct” as two or more acts including surveillance, threats, or harassing statements
- “Electronic communication” is defined as communication via cellphone, voicemail, email, text, instant messaging, or any other type of computerized correspondence
- “Harassment” is defined as knowing and wilfully acting against a specific person to alarm, torment, or terrorize them
Punishments for Online Defamation Within the State of Illinois
If convicted, someone accused of a Class Four Felony faces the following:
- Imprisonment of one year or more with a maximum of 3 years
- A fine of up to $25,000
- Both of these punishments, and additional financial damages
Suing for Defamation of Character in Illinois
In Illinois, the law states that the elements of a defamation claim are:
|A False Statement||An inherently false statement was made about the plaintiff|
|An Unprivileged Publication||There was a publication that was not permitted on or through a third party|
|A Fault||The fault by the defendant amounted to negligence|
|Damages||The publication caused damages|
Examples of Defamation Per Se in the State of Illinois
In Illinois, certain statements are valid defamation per se, so egregious that they will always be considered defamatory and will be always assumed to have incurred harm:
- Accusing the plaintiff of committing a crime
- Indicating that the plaintiff has a communicable disease
- Indicating that the plaintiff is unable to perform or lacks integrity with relation to work
- Attributes the plaintiff to a lack of general ability, otherwise harming them professionally
- Accuses the plaintiff of engaging in adultery
Should You Write A Cease and Desist Letter?
- In sum, writing a cease and desist letter is a complex process that can discredit your case, if not done properly
- If you cannot legally prove the damages you’ve suffered, detail all components of corresponding evidence from a legal standpoint, and compose a legally sound letter, you may run the risk of your letter being thrown out and even being unsuccessful if you go to court
- In addition, many lawyers who are capable of drafting cease and desist letters will charge an exorbitant amount of money for even responding to your inquiries!
Discover the DoNotPay Advantage: Draft a Cease and Desist Letter in Minutes!
DoNotPay is a fast, reliable, and convenient solution! The Cease and Desist letter DoNotPay drafts will detail the information about the case, demand retraction, warn against future statements, and will order that the accused abides by Illinois state statutes.
All you need to do is:
1. Search Defamation on DoNotPay.
2. Tell us about your situation:
- Were the statements slander or libel?
- What were the statements?
- Why are they false or misleading?
- What consequences have you suffered as a result of these statements?
3. Based on your location, DoNotPay will immediately generate a formal demand letter on your behalf, with the most relevant state legislation regarding defamation.
That’s it! You can expect a precisely drafted cease and desist letter to your cause, in an instant!
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