There are plenty of warnings about online activity. It’s usually targeted towards teenagers, warning them to be careful about what they say online. In some cases, that may be good advice for adults to follow too.

One woman from Georgia wrote a Facebook post complaining about her ex-husband. The post landed her in jail.

Just one example

The woman claimed that her ex-husband refused to bring medicine over for their sick children. The father, who was a sheriff’s deputy at the time, filed a criminal defamation charge against the woman. She was able to post her $1,000 bail after waiting in jail for three hours.

Ultimately the case against the woman was dropped because Georgia’s criminal defamation law was repealed in 1982. The woman filed a lawsuit against the county and won a $100,000 settlement and an apology.

Unfortunately, Florida residents may not be so lucky.

Defamation statutes in Florida

Unlike Georgia, Florida has a criminal defamation law. Those convicted of libel or defamation can face first-degree misdemeanor charges. On the other hand, those guilty of threats or extortion can be charged with a second-degree felony.

Understanding these statutes may help prevent you from committing a criminal offense, knowingly or unknowingly.

Understanding the differences

  • Libel is an untrue written statement about someone that harms their character.
  • Defamation is an untrue statement that harms a person’s character, either written or spoken.
  • A person may face a threat or extortion charge if they purposely and knowingly wrongfully accuse someone of a criminal offense or threaten to cause harm to a person or property.

The charges can be more severe, depending on the circumstances. The penalties for any of the violations will worsen with subsequent offenses. Defending charges can be complicated. Those facing criminal charges may want a strong legal advocate on their side.