Stolen Valor Shot Down

Court Holds Stolen Valor Act unconstitutional

In United States v. Alvarez, No. 11-210, a highly anticipated First Amendment case, the Court held six to three that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional. The Stolen Valor Act, 18 U.S.C. § 704, makes it a federal crime to lie about having received a military decoration or medal, punishable by up to a year in prison if the offense involved the military’s highest honors. The key issue in this case is whether knowingly false statements of fact – made without any apparent intent to defraud – are a protected form of speech, and if so, what level of protection they deserve.

Justice Kennedy announced a plurality opinion – joined by the Chief Justice, Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Sotomayor – and concluding that the Stolen Valor Act infringes on protected speech. The plurality reasoned that, with only narrow exceptions, content-based restrictions on speech face strict scrutiny, and are therefore almost always unconstitutional. False statements of fact do not fall within one of these exceptions, and so the Stolen Valor Act can survive strict scrutiny only if it is narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest. The Court concluded that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional because the Government had not shown that the statute is necessary to protect the integrity of the system of military honors – the interest the Government had identified in support of the Act.

Personally, Murdoc has never been a big fan of the Stolen Valor Act. I can see how it could apply in certain business or political-related situations, but, generally speaking, I can’t favor a law that you can be punished by the government for lying.

Even if lying about military service and decorations makes you an asshole of significant degree.


  1. Well that’s just it. If being an a$$hole were illegal, just about everyone would be in jail.

    Certainly everyone who can’t seem to master driving into Hartford any given weekday morning.

  2. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new Stolen Valor law with a more restrictive list of places/times that lying about military service is illegal.

  3. concluding that the Stolen Valor Act infringes on protected speech.

    I agree. However, watch how these same justices will eventually come around to defending so called hate speech laws that have been popping up throughout the Western world. Somehow I don’t think they will be that supportive of free speech then.

  4. 11 Bravo,

    As usual you’re right on.

    In Europe currently just muttering the “N” word at no one in particular can get you jail time. There’s a whole list of “types” wno cannot be referred to by certain non-Political Correct words like: gays, gypsies, Muslims, etc.

    Laughingly, the only “type” NOT included on these lists is: White, Male Christian!

    The Socialist tripe is inching its way across the Atlantic and

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