How to Prove Defamation of Character in Virginia: the Basics of a Defamation Case
Defamation is defined as a false statement that causes harm to an individual’s reputation or finances regarding their future opportunities, physical health, or mental health, and can carry serious legal consequences.
In a court of law, an individual can sue another for one of two forms of defamation: slander and libel. In a case of slander, an individual has spoken defamatory statements, while libel is defamatory statements that have been written or posted.
Once defamation has occurred, the affected individual can file for a “cease and desist” letter, which essentially warns the offender to cease defamatory claims or risk legal action. The following article will outline the process of defamation of character lawsuit in the state of Virginia.
Virginia’s Definition of Defamation
To properly proceed with a case in Virginia, the extent and type of defamation must be determined by the state laws. The kinds of defamation and the definitions of defamation itself are outlined below.
Slander vs. Libel
Defamation can be categorized as either slander or libel:
- Libel is any form of defamation that holds a permanent record of some kind. This includes but is not limited to emails, radio or TV broadcasts, articles or postings
- Slander is a form of defamation that is not recorded permanently, such as making a spoken statement or a defamatory action
Categorizing your defamation suit is the first step in proving a defamation claim by establishing the reasons for issuing a cease and desist letter.
The State of Virginia and Online Defamation
Although it is possible to prove online defamation, it is extremely difficult to decide to pursue legal action. However, in Virginia, defendants can be charged under the state’s “harassment by computer” laws.
Virginia and Defining Online Defamation
One of Virginia’s key anti-online defamation statutes is in Section 18, called the “Harassment by Computer” act. This states that:
- Any person with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass or abuse any person through a computer and communicates obscene, vulgar, profane, lewd, lascivious, or indecent language or suggests an obscene proposal that threatens an illegal or immoral act, they are guilty of harassment on a computer
- The law also states that this crime may serve as a basis for a civil action for damages
- Oral threats to kill or bodily injure anyone may also bring forth charges under the state’s threats of death or bodily injury legislation
- This legislation also applies to written threats
- In the case of criminal stalking, online defamation can be escalated to a greater charge
Punishments for Online Defamation Within the State of Virginia
- Harassment by computer is a Class 1 Misdemeanor and can incur a fine of up to $2,500, up to one year in jail, or both
- Orally threatening someone is a Class 1 Misdemeanor
- Threatening to kill or injure someone is a Class 6 Felony, treated as either a misdemeanor with a fine of $2,500 or up to one year in jail or a felony, with at least 1 and up to 5 years in prison
- Stalking is typically a class 1 misdemeanor but escalates to a Class 6 Felony in crimes that violate a protective order
Suing for Defamation of Character in The State of Virginia
In Virginia, the law states that the elements of a defamation claim are:
|An Intent to Coerce||The person who defamed you had the intention to coerce, bully, intimidate or harass you|
|Defamation Occurred||The defamation occurred and there are records of messages, actions, or statements that contained libel|
|Defamation was Obscene||The defamation made a suggestion or proposal that was obscene, threatened an illegal or immoral act, or was vulgar, profane, lewd, or indecent|
|Damages Incurred||You incurred damages as a result of the individual’s actions|
Examples of Defamation Per Se in the State of Virginia
In Virginia, these four broad statements are valid defamation per se, so harmful that they will always be considered defamatory and will be always assumed to have incurred substantial damages:
- Implying that a crime was committed that was immoral
- Implying that an individual has an infectious or embarrassing disease that requisites societal exclusion
- Implying that an individual is unfit to perform a job and lacks basic integrity in the performance of their job itself
- The statement creates prejudice in the trade of the victim
Deciding to file a Cease and Desist Letter
- Cease and desist letters are extremely complex, and require precise language to make your case credible
- If your letter does not properly outline the damages, harm, and other information about your case with terminology that is applicable in a court of law, your letter may be disregarded or deemed insufficient for a proper case
- Alternatively, hiring a lawyer to write a cease and desist letter on your behalf is expensive and may take more time than you think. In the state of Virginia, a case like this carries a statute of limitations of one year following the incident of defamation, meaning that your time to file your claim is limited.
Find Out How to Draft a Cease and Desist Letter in Minutes!
DoNotPay is an easy, credible, and safe solution! The Cease and Desist letter DoNotPay drafts details the information about the case, demands retraction, warns against any impending statements, and will order that the accused abides by Virginia state law.
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 detailed drafted cease and desist letter to your cause, in an instant!
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