The Stolen Valor Law of 2013 makes it a Federal offense punishable by fines and imprisonment to falsely claim military honors or awards to affect personal, tangible gain. Additional charges, local, state and Federal may also apply. For the full text of the law, go here.
This issue is not about Freedom of Speech and doesn’t really impact the loudmouths at the local watering hole hoping to get free drinks and special attention with stories of derring-do. Technically, they are receiving tangible personal financial gain, but the chances of the bar stool warrior being prosecuted are slim, as they should be. In the SCOTUS decision to strike down the previous incarnation of this law, Justice Kennedy wrote something along the lines of, false speech can and should be sufficiently countered with public ridicule.
When Stolen Valor becomes a prosecutable issue, it generally involves other charges of fraud. Some think the SV law is superfluous. If someone falsely claims something and based on those false claims receives something, that is prosecutable, and even punishable by imprisonment. So, why a special law about military awards?
There are parallels with other segments of our society. Some groups who when wronged because of their status have recourse with enhanced penalties. Hate crimes, acts committed against a person because of the color of their skin, sexual orientation or age are seen to deserve additional punishments. Attack someone because of your opinion of them based on these characteristics and a simple assault charge becomes a felony.
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