What Is the Punishment for Libel?

The punishments for libel are civil remedies and not criminal punishments. These remedies may include compensatory damages, which are intended to compensate the plaintiff libeled for his actual financial losses, and punitive damages, which are intended to financially punish the defendant who made the libelous statement.

Compensatory damages may be calculated from the actual losses of the person libeled. These losses occur from lost work opportunities, loss of reputation or medical care related to the libelous statement. They also may include some noneconomic damages such as the mental anguish of the plaintiff. Punitive damages are reserved for cases where the libelous act was intentional. Since they are intended to punish the wrongdoer, the amount of punitive damages varies.