The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the Stolen Valor Act, which made it a crime to lie about receiving military medals.
By a 6-3 decision, the high court said the right to lie about medals and military service, while unattractive, is protected by the 1st Amendment. “The Nation well knows that one of the costs of the First Amendment is that it protects the speech we detest as well as the speech we embrace,” Justice Kennedy wrote for the court.
The decision came in the case of Xavier Alvarez, a former member of the Three Valleys Municipal Water District in Southern California. Alvarez had claimed he was a former Marine and recipient of the Medal of Honor; in fact, he had never served in the military.
Alvarez, a resident of Pomona, was sentenced to three years probation, a $5,000 fine and community service. His attorneys appealed; the 9th Circuit of Appeals upheld his appeal, and the Department of Justice appealed to the Supreme Court.
The law was passed by Congress in 2005 and signed by President George W. Bush. It called for a possible one-year prison term.