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United States v. Alvarez

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: February 22, 2012
Case #: 11-210
617 F.3d 1198 (9th Cir. 2010)
Full Text Opinion: http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/United_States_v_Alvarez_617_F3d_1198_9th_Cir_2010_Court_Opinion

Constitutional Law: (Whether the Stolen Valor Act is facially invalid under the First Amendment's Free Speech clause.)

Respondent was convicted of making a false representation of having earned a military award, in violation of the Stolen Valor Act, 18 U.S.C. § 704(b), which makes it a crime to falsely represent that you have been awarded any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the Armed Forces of the United States. Respondent appealed his judgment of conviction and the Ninth Circuit reversed holding that the Act is facially invalid under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

Petitioner argues that as a very narrow prohibition of particular knowingly false speech the Stolen Valor Act does not violate the Free Speech Clause. Section 704(b) furthers the compelling governmental interest of protecting the military awards system against false claims and unauthorized imitations that misappropriate the awards’ value. Because section 704(b) does this by prohibiting only knowingly false representations of fact relating to receipt of a military award, it avoids chilling other fully protected speech and passes constitutional review because it serves a strong government interest that extends no further than necessary to protect the governmental interest.