Which lawyer for defamation?

You have been a victim of defamation and you wish to obtain compensation for this offence?

Defamation is the fact that a person undermines the reputation or integrity of another person in oral or written form or by imputing a fact.

In this article, you will find the main information concerning the crime of defamation and the means at your disposal to obtain compensation.

We can also put you in touch with the criminal lawyer best able to defend your interests.

Defamation: the forms it can take

Under the provisions of the French Criminal Code, defamation is based on the allegation or imputation of facts likely to harm the integrity or reputation of a person.

Without intent to harm, defamation cannot be proven, and is therefore a simple insult.

Defamation is a criminal offence.

Defamation has two main forms:

Public defamation: this form of defamation is based on the fact of defaming a person in public (i.e. that people outside the victim or the defamer can be informed of it), for example when you are the victim of defamatory remarks on the Internet or in the street.

Non-public (or private) defamation: this form of defamation is based on the fact that you defame someone in the private sphere, for example when you send an email to that person or a text message. Private defamation is characterized by the fact that other people cannot see the defamatory act when it is committed.

The distinction between these two types of defamation is important.

The criminal consequences of each are different and the procedure to be followed will not be the same.

Defamation is recognized as an offence by the legislator.

This offense is punishable by a fine that is much higher for public defamation than for private defamation.

Good to know:

A nuance applies when defamation on social networks is concerned.

To name just one, Facebook, the line between public and private defamation will depend on the characteristics and settings of the account.

If the account is closed or private, i.e. only the person’s friends can access it, then the defamation will be private.

Conversely, if the account is open to all, public defamation may be characterized.

Note that defamation can affect a specific person (the criminal penalty is a fine of €12,000 for public defamation, if it is a private defamation the amount will be €38).

In case of non-public defamation concerning racist, religious or sexual remarks against a person, the fine is 750€.

If the defamation is made against a group of people because of their religious or sexual affiliation, for example, or because they do not belong to one of these groups, the fine can be as high as 45,000€ and can lead to a prison sentence (cumulative or as an alternative to the fine) of up to one year.

Defamation: Possible actions

Victims of defamation are granted rights and possibilities of action in order to have the offence of which they are victims repaired.

If you are a victim of a defamation situation, it is possible for you to take action to obtain compensation for this infraction.

There are two main exceptions in matters of private defamation that can be used against you:

– The exception of truth: If the defamatory remarks made are representative of reality, touch on private life or are more than 10 years old, it will be possible to oppose you this exception within the framework of certain litigations.

The legislator has chosen to give precedence to freedom of expression.

Proof of good faith: Good faith will make it possible to demonstrate the absence of intention to harm which is necessary for the constitution of the offence of defamation. Good faith can be demonstrated by the combination of four elements:

o Legitimacy of the goal pursued (i.e. a goal that is founded in law),

o Absence of personal animosity (The defamatory remarks were not made because of a particular grudge against you),

o Caution and moderation in the expression (the remarks made must not have been excessive in relation to the aim pursued),

o The seriousness of the investigation carried out.

If none of these exceptions apply to you and you are entitled to take action, you will have to file a complaint with the police or with the Public Prosecutor.

Defamation: which lawyer?

The first step to take is to demonstrate that you are indeed a victim of defamation.

Also, you must demonstrate that the defamation is indeed constituted.

As previously mentioned, defamation must be distinguished from simple insult.

If you accuse someone of having been a collaborator during the Second World War, without being able to prove it, it is a defamation.

If you call your neighbor all kinds of names, it is an insult because you do not try to prove that he is the origin of a fact. You can then turn to a lawyer for neighborhood problems.

This demonstration will also require the constitution of proof. For example, by taking screenshots of your computer if the defamation was broadcast on the Internet, and by recording the URL used.

The competent court for private (or non-public) defamation is the police court.

The prescription period is three months. If you want to act, do it quickly!

The assistance of a criminal lawyer is not mandatory before the police court.

However, it is more than recommended to consult a legal professional, represented in the person of the criminal lawyer, in order to help you defend your interests in the best possible way.

This recommendation is even more accentuated if you appear as the author of the facts.

The criminal lawyer will allow you to maximize your chances of success.

Since the procedure before the police court is oral, having a criminal lawyer assist you will be a major asset.

The criminal lawyer is used to pleading and will not be impressed to do so in court.

If you choose to represent yourself alone, the stress may outweigh your ability to defend yourself and your demonstration will be impaired.

The assistance of a criminal lawyer will also allow you to properly quantify the amount of damages you may seek to be awarded.

In order to take legal action, you must file a complaint. There are 3 types of complaints that you can file:

The simple complaint for defamation before the prosecutor: by going to the gendarmerie or the police station, but also by registered letter to the public prosecutor.

The complaint with civil party constitution for defamation: addressed directly to the investigating judge. The examining magistrate will conduct an investigation and if he or she considers that the defamation has been committed, the case may be referred to the criminal court.

Direct summons for defamation: this option is open to you if you know the identity of the author of the defamation. In this case, you can take the case directly to the criminal court by direct summons, which will have the advantage of accelerating the procedure.

Representation by a lawyer before the Criminal Court is not mandatory.

However, you should consider this possibility.

If you are a victim, the criminal lawyer will help you to set the cursor of the damages to which you can claim, but will also be the keystone of the success of your action. He will be a necessary element in order to maximize your chances of success.

Being a victim of defamation can be trying, the criminal lawyer will be the ear to listen to you and support you in your steps throughout this criminal journey , but also civil in order to see you awarded damages.

If you are the author of defamation, even if you think that you will necessarily be condemned, calling upon a criminal lawyer will allow you to minimize your sanction and to have your defense and your interests represented in the best possible way.

Another important point is that the lawyer, as a procedural expert, will be able to point out a possible procedural defect that could affect the validity of the action, whereas you will not be able to point out this irregularity.

The cost is often a determining factor in the choice of whether or not to obtain the advice of a lawyer.

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