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Criminal libel law declared unconstitutional

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Criminal libel law declared unconstitutional 10/05/98 NEVADA--A federal judge in Las Vegas declared Nevada's criminal libel law unconstitutional in late…

Criminal libel law declared unconstitutional

10/05/98

NEVADA–A federal judge in Las Vegas declared Nevada’s criminal libel law unconstitutional in late September after the Nevada Press Association challenged the law and the Nevada Attorney General agreed that the law was unconstitutional.

The statute defined criminal libel as “malicious defamation” that tended “to blacken the memory of the dead,” or “impeach” the honesty or integrity of living persons, “thereby exposing them to public hatred, contempt or ridicule.”

Under the statute, the truth of a published statement was no defense against a criminal conviction, unless the statement was published “for good motive and for justifiable ends.”

In accordance with an agreement between the Nevada Press Association and the Attorney General, Judge Johnnie Rawlinson issued a final judgment stating that the law was unconstitutionally broad and violated the First Amendment by providing punishment for the publication of truthful statements. (Nevada Press Association v. Del Papa; Media Counsel: Kevin Doty, Las Vegas)