Oklahoma Defamation Laws

Defining Defamation in Oklahoma

Defamation in Oklahoma is defined as a malicious act of printing, writing, or creating a representation or effigy that directs hate, degradation, or contempt to anyone living, or to “blacken or vilify the memory of one who is dead”. Such defamation is meant to harm a person’s reputation or business in what is called an “unprivileged publication”. In Oklahoma, the State statutes for defamation, libel, and slander are classified as a criminal offense with varying degrees of punishment.

If a defendant in Oklahoma is found guilty of libel or defamation, here she can face up to one year in jail and/or a $1000 fine in addition to compensatory damages.

The statute of limitations in Oklahoma for defamation is one year.

What is a “privileged publication”?

There are three ways Oklahoma defines a privileged publication.

  1. Any proceeding authorized by Oklahoma State or Federal Law: judicial or legislative proceedings.
  2. A publication that is made when executed under official duty.
  3. Any true and fair report of any legally authorized proceedings, including matters of opinion regarding such legally authorized proceedings are considered privileged publication

Such is the case unless the alleged defamatory statements were made out of malice. Naturally, such malice must be proved in a court of law.

Threats to Publish Libelous and Defamatory Material

If a person or news agency threatens in writing to publish potentially defamatory material, Oklahoma state law treats threats the same as actually publishing the defamatory material. However, if a threat to publish libelous material is made verbally, the plaintiff must prove with the testimony of two or more witnesses that such a threat was made, or with one witness presenting corroborating circumstances.

Defenses for Defamation in Oklahoma

There are three main defenses for defamation that are allowable under Oklahoma state law. Obviously, truth is a main defense against criminal libel and defamation. Another defense that is permissible in Oklahoma is that the alleged defamatory statement was not published maliciously, but was published as a means to a justifiable end and with good motives. The third form of valid defense against defamation cases in Oklahoma falls within the realm of privileged publication as defined previously.

Oklahoma is a Per Se State

A plaintiff in Oklahoma can bring defamation per se charges against a person who maliciously and falsely accuses a woman of unchastity. If the defendant is found guilty, that person can be sentenced to pay a fine between $25 and $500 and/or spend between 30 days and 90 days in jail.

Likewise, anyone who brings a malicious and false rumor against a person that is meant to harm their reputation or financial standing can be deemed liable of committing a misdemeanor and can be punished by paying a fine between $100 and $500 and or be sentenced to spend 30 to 120 days in jail for each count of slander, libel, or defamation.

Damages Awarded for Defamation in Oklahoma

Among the damages for defamation in Oklahoma include:

  • civil fines
  • compensatory damages
  • other damages awarded by the court