Bloomberg the Company & Products

Bloomberg Anywhere Login

Bloomberg

Connecting decision makers to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas, Bloomberg quickly and accurately delivers business and financial information, news and insight around the world.

Company

Financial Products

Enterprise Products

Media

Customer Support

  • Americas

    +1 212 318 2000

  • Europe, Middle East, & Africa

    +44 20 7330 7500

  • Asia Pacific

    +65 6212 1000

Communications

Industry Products

Media Services

Follow Us

Lies About Military Medals Get U.S. Supreme Court Review

Don't Miss Out —
Follow us on:

Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the Constitution’s free speech clause protects people who falsely claim to have been awarded military medals.

The justices today said they will hear arguments on the 2005 Stolen Valor Act, which punishes people with as much as a year in prison for lying about receiving a medal. A federal appeals court declared the law unconstitutional, and President Barack Obama’s administration is appealing.

The law “plays a vital role in safeguarding the integrity and efficacy of the government’s military honors system,” U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued in the administration’s bid for high court review.

The case before the justices involves Xavier Alvarez, one of the first people charged under the law. In 2005 Alvarez was serving as an elected member of the local water board in Pomona, California, when he said at a board meeting that he had served 25 years in the Marines and had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. In truth, he had never served in the military.

He was indicted for violating the Stolen Valor Act and pleaded guilty, while reserving his right to appeal on First Amendment grounds. Alvarez was sentenced to three years of probation, a $5,000 fine and 416 hours of community service. A divided federal appeals court in San Francisco threw out the guilty plea.

45 Cases

Prosecutors have filed charges under the Stolen Valor act in 45 cases since the law was enacted, Alvarez said in court papers.

The Obama administration says previous Supreme Court cases establish that false statements are entitled to only limited First Amendment protection. Alvarez says that’s not the case, contending that the court has never carved out a First Amendment exception for lies.

“Criminalizing the telling of a lie about oneself -- even a lie which might tend to tarnish the reputation of a military honor -- is simply beyond the limited exceptions to the constitutional dictate that ‘Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech,’” Alvarez argued, quoting from the First Amendment.

The case, which the court will consider and decide in the first half of next year, is United States v. Alvarez, 11-210.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

Please upgrade your Browser

Your browser is out-of-date. Please download one of these excellent browsers:

Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera or Internet Explorer.