Wannabes are everywhere. You can't swing a dead cat these days without hitting some loud-talking guy talking about how he used to run SWAT in Los Angeles, won Purple Hearts in both WWI and WWII, or was a member of Seal Team 6 that got the Bin Laden kill shot.
Due to the sheer volume of individuals trying to pass themselves off as law enforcement, counter-terrorism experts, and military heroes, the US Supreme Court will decide soon whether a law making it a crime to lie about having received military medals is constitutional.
The justices say they will hear arguments and consider the validity of the "Stolen Valor Act."
That law passed Congress with overwhelming support in 2006, but a federal appeals court in California struck down the law on free speech grounds.
This is a tough one for the high court. On the one hand, no one should be able to lie about serving in the armed forces, sometimes for personal and monetary gain, and get away with it.
On the other hand, if the high court decides that lying to make yourself seem more important than you are is a crime, we'd better start building a lot more prisons.
According to FOX News, the Obama administration is arguing that the law is reasonable because it only applies to instances in which the speaker intends to portray himself as a medal recipient as opposed to just some yahoo lying his or her butt off after a few drinks.
The case concerns the government's prosecution of Xavier Alvarez of Pomona, California.
A member of his district's local water district, Alvarez told attendees at a public meeting in 2007 that he was a retired Marine who received the Medal of Honor. However, Alvarez never served in the military.
He was indicted and plead guilty with the understanding that he would challenge the law's constitutionality in his appeal. He was sentenced under the Stolen Valor Act to more than 400 hours of community service at a veterans hospital and fined $5,000 pending the outcome of the appeal.
A panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to strike down the law. The majority said there was no evidence that lies like the ones told by Alvarez harmed anybody and they found no compelling reason to make a crime out of lying.
The Stolen Valor law had been the latest congressional effort to try to keep people from wearing medals they did not earn - a practice that is more than commonplace. But it was the first time that lawmakers made it a crime for someone to claim falsely that he had been awarded a medal. Critics say the law has led to dozens of arrests at a time when veterans coming home from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are being embraced as heroes.
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