Calumny is technically the act of a person falsely accusing another person of a crime.

However, the common definition of calumny means the act of maliciously (i.e. with the intent to do harm) misrepresenting someone's conduct to harm that person's reputation."

Is calumny a crime to be charged by a State prosecutor?

Is calumny an offense that can be the subject of a civil suit?

What would be the relevant statutes in Ohio? in British Columbia?

2 Answers 2


In Ohio, and in most common-law jurisdictions, this conduct is covered under the tort of defamation. It is a common law tort rather than a statutory tort, so there is no statute to consult. Case law requires a defamation plaintiff to prove:

  1. that a false statement of fact was made;
  2. that the statement was defamatory;
  3. that the statement was published;
  4. that the plaintiff suffered injury as a proximate result of the publication; and
  5. that the defendant acted with the requisite degree of fault in publishing the statement.

Am. Chem. Soc. v. Leadscope, Inc., 133 Ohio St.3d 366, ¶ 77.

In the United States, defamation is very rarely going to be a criminal matter in and of itself. Because of the First Amendment's robust protections for free speech, defamation cases are generally doomed to failure, even when the speech in question is demonstrably false.

In British Columbia, the elements should be roughly the same, but I don't have a sense of how often these claims are successful or whether there are criminal sanctions for defamation.

  • Ohio does have a limited criminal defamation statute punishable by small fines, however, although it contains many limitations. codes.ohio.gov/ohio-revised-code/chapter-2739 It is almost never utilized in practice.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 20:12
  • Thank you. "3. that the statement was published." What about letters secretely circulated? Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 20:30
  • * privately circulated Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 20:30
  • 1
    That would probably still be a publication.
    – bdb484
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 22:23
  • 2
    @Maria Alaniz In defamation actions, unlike in copyright actions "publication" includes any distribution of the statemented to a third person, provided that it was not done in confidence. See law.stackexchange.com/questions/70220/… Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 1:07

As well as defamation, covered by @bdb484, "falsely accusing another person of a crime" is also a first degree misdemeanor:

Ohio Revised Code 2921.13 states:

(A) No person shall knowingly make a false statement, or knowingly swear or affirm the truth of a false statement previously made, when any of the following applies:


  • (2) The statement is made with purpose to incriminate another.


The Candian Criminal Code codifies most criminal offences in Canada including, at RSC 1985, c C-46 s.140 the offence of Public Mischief:

(1) Every one commits public mischief who, with intent to mislead, causes a peace officer to enter on or continue an investigation by

  • (a) making a false statement that accuses some other person of having committed an offence;

  • (b) doing anything intended to cause some other person to be suspected of having committed an offence that the other person has not committed, or to divert suspicion from himself;

  • (c) reporting that an offence has been committed when it has not been committed; or...


  • 1
    What about lies circulated by email among commercial middle-men with evident purpose to punish and exclude (black-list) a former supplier (since 1995) from participating in the market for "socially responsible" jewelry? Would ironclad proof of that noxious practice be sufficient to charge calumny? A small fine would be salutary. Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 22:26

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