Charlotte, NC asked in Libel & Slander for Florida

Q: Can I sue for defimation of character? Sheriff went on national TV and knowingly said the following below...

The sheriff went on TV (nation wide) and told the pubic I "had plans to commit a mass shooting" (proven flase by the court).

That I "Owned a 22 rifle and over 300 rounds of ammunition" (was proven false by the court).

That I "am psychotic" (multiple mental professionals proved this false)

That I "planned to kill as many people as possible" (proven false by the court)

Insinuated that I "could have been planning to shoot up the mall" (false, I didn't plan anything, determined by the court.)

"That I had lost my job and girlfriend" (I had a job, I didn't have a girlfriend previous to the incident.)

Stated that I said " I have a fascination with mass shootings." (Flase, my original statement was "I would not use the word fascinated.")

He stated "I had the means and ability to do it. (Proven false by the court.)

Stated I "fit the profile of a prolific mass shooter."

And much more.. (limited text)


Pending, Pretrial Intervention, case to be dropped, expunged off record

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1 Lawyer Answer
Charles M.  Baron
Charles M. Baron
  • Hollywood, FL
  • Licensed in Florida

A: Yes, if the Sheriff knowingly or recklessly made the defamatory statements. However, it sounds like you are planning to take a "pretrial intervention" deal (or have already taken the deal). While that results in the State dropping the charges, and enables you to thereafter petition for expungement (if you are eligible), the fact that are making that deal, rather than going for an ACQUITTAL on the charges (being found NOT GUILTY), might be problematic for a future defamation action. While it won't prohibit you from filing the action, those who are evaluating your claim will have the attitude, "so if he was definitely not guilty of anything, why would he take the deal?" That, in turn, will affect the settlement value of your case. Now, that doesn't mean you should not take the deal - the pros and cons must be weighed, and it is often prudent to take such a deal, regardless of its effect on your potential civil claim. That is something you need to discuss with your criminal defense attorney.

Bear in mind that in Fla., there is a two-year statute of limitations for defamation actions. Also bear in mind that if you pursue a civil claim, it is best NOT to petition for expungement until after you obtain certified copies of the criminal court file. Once it's expunged, the file disappears.

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