Quietly – in the night – the Colorado State Legislature “ended” a crime that – as a prosecutor – I only prosecuted one time in 13 years. Criminal Libel.
Colorado Repeal of Criminal Libel .
Senate Bill 12-102, repeals the crime of criminal libel.
The old law permited the charging of Criminal Libel – …”knowingly publishing or disseminating any statement or object tending to blacken the memory of one who is dead, or impeaching the honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation or exposing the natural defects of one who is alive, thereby exposing such person to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule.
Criminal libel 18-13-105 was a class 6 felony.
H. Michael’s Take
While seldom charged — the law had its proponents. Today – given our high tech world – publishing incredibly damaging information on the internet can end careers, destroy families, wreak unimaginable pain. This law provided a method to redress these acts.
In a very controversial case involving a Colorado Univiversity newspaper, the Howling Pig, the law was enforced in an unconstitutional fashion. It appears now that the state legislature decided it should be stricken from the books – quietly – because it is also facially unconstitutional. I can see their point. The law needs to be rewritten.