New York state Sen. Tom Croci, a Navy Reserve officer whose district covers part of Long Island, launched a bill to make stolen valor a felony.
Those convicted will be required to pay a $250 fee as part of their punishment to a state fund that maintains and establishes veterans cemeteries.
“You don’t want the uniform or the decorations, in any way, disgraced,” Croci told Military Times. “And you certainly don’t want the hard-earned taxpayer dollars that they think are going to veterans to be abused by people impersonating veterans.”
A first-term state senator, Croci is “cautiously optimistic, but realistic” about the bill.
“There’s a strand of New York legislators in Albany that doesn’t want to see any increased criminal penalties for anything,” he said. “The bill needs to clear the state assembly and the governor’s office before becoming law.”
If passed, the Croci’s bill would make stolen valor a Class E felony, which is the lowest classification in the state. Penalties of this sort typically don’t include jail time, but do come with fines.
The federal Stolen Valor Act of 2005 made it a crime to claim unearned military honors, however the Supreme Court ruled that law unconstitutional in 2012. The justices found that the First Amendment protects stolen valor as free speech.
Still, several other states have attempted to felonize stolen valor as well — including Maryland, New Jersey, and Wisconsin.