A Judges Panel Just Ruled Stolen Valor As Free Speech

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DoD/Staff Sgt. Timothy Koster

On Jan. 11, a federal appeals court ruled that wearing unearned military medals is a form of free speech protected under the Constitution.


The decision was reached by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals through an 11-judge panel, which found that the First Amendment protects citizens from being charged with stolen valor as a crime, according to The Associated Press.

In 2006, President George Bush signed the Stolen Valor Act, which made it a misdemeanor to falsely claim military accomplishments into law. However, the Supreme Court struck it down in 2012.

After the Stolen Valor Act was deemed unconstitutional, Congress passed a law making it a crime to profit financially by lying about military service and President Barack Obama signed it in 2013.

This decision allowed the court to overturn an Idaho man’s conviction for wearing unearned medals.

The convicted man, Elven Joe Swisher, was a Korean War Marine who testified on the stand in a 2005 criminal case wearing several military medals. Investigators later determined Swisher had not earned any medals he was wearing and violated the Stolen Valor Act.

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Saturday Night Live/screenshot

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Staff Sgt. John Eller conducts pre-flights check on his C-17 Globemaster III Jan. 3 prior to taking off from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii for a local area training mission. Sgt. Eller is a loadmaster from the 535th Airlift Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan speaks at the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

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