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article imageUS Supreme Court to decide on lying about military service

By Kim I. Hartman     Oct 17, 2011 in Politics
Washington - The Supreme Court has agreed to rule on the constitutionality of the 2006 law known as the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a criminal offense to lie about being decorated with honors for military service.
The Stolen Valor Act [pdf] makes it unlawful to "falsely represent, verbally or in writing, to have been “awarded any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the Armed Forces of the United States, any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces, the ribbon, button, or rosette of any such badge, decoration, or medal, or any colorable imitation of such item.”
The case at the center of the debate involves defendant Xavier Alvarez, who won a seat on the Three Valleys Municipal Water District board after falsely claiming that he was a decorated Marine, who had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He also claimed to have "played hockey for the Detroit Red Wings, worked as a police officer, rescued the U.S. Ambassador during the Iranian hostage crisis and married a Mexican starlet," according to the LA Times.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the government couldn't act as the “truth police” to punish lies that cause no direct harm, reports the LA Times.
In the 2-1 decision [pdf], Judge Milan Smith wrote, “The sad fact is, most people lie about some aspects of their lives from time to time. Given our historical skepticism of permitting the government to police the line between truth and falsity, and between valuable speech and drivel, we presumptively protect all speech, including false statements.”
Wired reported, in overturning the law the Court ruled "if it were to uphold the law, then there would be no constitutional bar to criminalizing lying about one’s height, weight, age, or financial status on Match.com or Facebook, or falsely representing to one’s mother that one does not smoke, drink alcoholic beverages, is a virgin, or has not exceeded the speed limit while driving on the freeway.”
Alvarez was the first defendant to be charged and convicted under the Stolen Valor Act. More then 60 people have been prosecuted by the Justice Department for lying about their military service record under the 2006 law, reports the NY Times.
Alvarez plead guilty to the charges and appealed the case, arguing the Stolen Valor Act was unconstitutional because it violates his right of free speech. He was fined $5,000 and ordered to perform 416 hours of community service, and was sentenced to three years probation.
The uncertain future of the Stolen Valor Act will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court , who will make the final decision on whether the law is "facially invalid under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment."
The Supreme Court has not given any indication on when they will make their decision.
More about Supreme Court of the United States, stolen valor act, lying about military service, Scotus, Supreme court
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