Vol. LIII No. 2

Hey! That’s My Valor: The Stolen Valor Act and Government Regulation of False Speech Under the First Amendment

Abstract: The Stolen Valor Act criminalizes lies about receiving military decorations. Through the Stolen Valor Act, the government seeks to protect the honor associated with receiving a military decoration from people who falsely claim to have received one. Some courts have held that the false statements proscribed by the Stolen Valor Act fall outside of First Amendment protection. Other courts, most notably the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in the 2010 decision United States v. Alvarez, held that lies about military decorations are protected speech and that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional because it does not meet strict scrutiny. This Note argues that the First Amendment protects false statements. Section 704(b) of the Stolen Valor Act does not fall into any category of unprotected speech, does not meet the strict scrutiny test for government regulation of protected speech, and therefore is an unconstitutional restriction of protected speech.

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