Senate Bill No. 205

Introduced By _______________________________________________________________________________

A Bill for an Act entitled: "An Act clarifying that truth is an absolute defense in a criminal defamation proceeding; amending section

45-8-212, MCA; and providing an immediate effective date."

WHEREAS, the Montana Supreme Court in State v. Helfrich, 53 St. Rep. 741 (1996), held that section 45-8-212, MCA, was unconstitutional for not allowing truth as an absolute defense in criminal defamation proceedings.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Montana:

Section 1.  Section 45-8-212, MCA, is amended to read:

"45-8-212.   Criminal defamation. (1) Defamatory matter is anything which that exposes a person or a group, class, or association to hatred, contempt, ridicule, degradation, or disgrace in society or injury to his the person's or its business or occupation.

(2)  Whoever, with knowledge of its defamatory character, orally, in writing, or by any other means communicates any defamatory matter to a third person without the consent of the person defamed commits the offense of criminal defamation and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 6 months in the county jail or a fine of not more than $500, or both.

(3)  Violation of subsection (2) is justified if:

(a)  the defamatory matter is true and is communicated with good motives and for justifiable ends;

(b)  the communication is absolutely privileged;

(c)  the communication consists of fair comment made in good faith with respect to persons participating in matters of public concern;

(d)  the communication consists of a fair and true report or a fair summary of any judicial, legislative, or other public or official proceedings; or

(e)  the communication is between persons each having an interest or duty with respect to the subject matter of the communication and is made with the purpose to further such the interest or duty.

(4)  No A person shall may not be convicted on the basis of an oral communication of defamatory matter except upon the testimony of at least two other persons that they heard and understood the oral statement as defamatory or upon a plea of guilty."

NEW SECTION. Section 2.  Effective date. [This act] is effective on passage and approval.