The 3 differences between insults and slander: how to distinguish them?


The words “insult” and “slander” are very often used synonymously since both refer to acts that violate someone’s honor and commit a crime.

However, although they are usually used in the same environments, they are not the same. Some are the peculiarities and the legal consequences of the act of insult and slander, with which it is not appropriate to use them interchangeably.

Then let’s see what are the differences between insults and slander, in addition to understanding more fully what these two words mean.

The main differences between insults and slander

It is common to hear on television sets, in the press and on the radio two words that, having become popular almost at the same time, many are those who believe that they are synonymous: insults and slander. According to the Spanish Penal Code, both refer to acts that constitute criminal offenses, that is, they are criminal acts. However, in the media, increasingly judicialized environments, these two terms are misused from a technical-legal language perspective.

Injury and slander are not the same. There are some legal differences and terminological nuances that make it more appropriate to use one word or another. Before going into more depth with the main differences between these two terms, we are going to see the extensive definition of what is an insult and what is a slander, in addition to giving an example.

What is an injury?

An insult is any expression that consists of imputing false facts to someone and that violate their dignity. That is to say, they are objectively offensive actions that damage the reputation of whoever is attacked and, furthermore, whoever does the injury knows that what they are saying is not true or has a harmful character. In other words, an injury is an intentional action that attempts to undermine the honor of the injured party, attributing to him / her conduct that, socially, is interpreted as unworthy or immoral, but not criminal.

Examples of insults are insults, as long as they are said with the clear intention of discrediting someone. That insult must affect the honor of the injured person and be serious enough for them to report it, in addition, there must be evidence that the person who has done the injury has said it with the clear intention of undermining the reputation of the injured person.

Another example of injury, especially common on the sets of the heart, is claiming that someone has been unfaithful to their partner knowing that it is not true. Being unfaithful is not a crime, but it is an act that is socially considered morally questionable, causing the person to whom it has been attributed to be unfaithful to lose reputation or receive a negative opinion from society. For this reason, the person who has received the injury can denounce the person who attacks him because he puts him at risk of losing his partner or that society sees him as a promiscuous person. Types of injuries

In the Spanish Penal Code insults are regulated by articles 208 et seq.. The code speaks of two types of injuries depending on the publicity that has been made to them:

On the one hand we have the “normal” injuries that would be simply the act of injuring, that is, attributing to someone having committed a morally questionable act at a given time and context.

On the other, we have the aggravated type, injuries that are considered serious because whoever has done them has not only damaged the honor of the injured party, but has also promoted that false statement using different media, such as social networks, television , the newspaper…

What is slander?

Slander is the act of falsely attributing someone to have committed a crime. In other words, slander consists of affirming that a person has committed a crime knowing that he has not done so with the sole intention of harming him both socially and legally. On the one hand, the honor and reputation of the slandered is undermined, generating in public opinion the idea that he is not respectful of the law, while on the other hand it is affirmed that he has committed a crime, causing the authorities to investigate and treat him suspect or accused until it is proven that the crime has not been committed.

A clear example of slander is to report that a politician has stolen from the state coffers to pay for a chalet. This type of statement can generate a negative opinion both in your colleagues in the party and in the opposition, putting you at risk of losing your party membership card or being forced to resign from your position. In addition, you can be disqualified from taking a position in any public office during the time you are being investigated.

Types of slander

Slander is regulated in articles 205 and following of the Penal Code. As with libel, there are two types of slander depending on the publicity made to them: normal ones, in which a crime is simply attributed to someone without giving it too much social extension, and the aggravated ones, in which there is promotion of this statement by different media platforms.

What is the main difference between libel and slander?

The main difference between insults and slander is the type of content of the false claims made about the attacked person.

Both acts are legally punishable, however, what is said in them has different social and legal repercussions for the attacked. While an injury implies affirming something morally questionable about the injured person, a slander goes further, attributing the commission of a crime and, therefore, causing it to have to be investigated.

Insults and slander are crimes, however, the line between insults and insults or slander is quite subjective. For this reason the Penal Code of Spain typifies insults and slander with the intention of specifying which situations suppose an attack against the honor and dignity of the injured or slandered person, trying to distinguish them from those that are merely insults devoid of real damage, such as It could be calling a person an “asshole” or a “bastard.”

What to do if we feel insulted or slandered?

Based on what we have said, a false statement is an insult or slander when what is said violates our honor and dignity, whether we are accused of having committed a moral offense or a legal crime. As we said, the line between insult and slander and insult is somewhat subjective, since what for one can be seen simply as a slight insult to another can be considered an authentic attack on his honor.

For this reason, in case we feel injured and slandered, the first thing to do is go to a lawyer to discuss the case and for him to consider whether a crime has really been committed against our honor. If, for example, there are no clear signs that the person who attacked us did so with the intention of violating our honor, there will be no crime.

If there is one, what the lawyer does first is to write a document for a conciliation act to be held in the court of the locality where the affected person lives, this being the mandatory prior step before filing a complaint. The conciliation act intends for both parties to reach an understanding before making the problem go further and prosecuting the matter, with its legal and economic repercussions for both parties.

If it is considered that there has been insult or slander and there is no act of conciliation, the punishment or penalty for whoever attacked the complainant varies depending on the content of the false statement and how far it has gone. For example, for a normal injury, that is, that has not been publicized, the punishment can be a six-month fine, while for serious slander, attributing a crime and, on top of it, making it media, there can be a two-year prison sentence.

Bibliographic references:

  • López, N. (2017). These are the differences between an insult and a slander. Legalites.
  • Sot-Torres, D. (2014). Basic legal culture: Difference between libel and slander and lawsuit and complaint. aob lawyers.
  • Gago, L. (2019). What are the differences between insults and slander. Gaia Lawyers.

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