Is lying about military service and claiming to have won a medal a crime or just bragging that is covered by freedom of speech?
That’s a question facing federal courts right now as they struggle to deal with those who lie about being war heroes.
The question tests the validity of the Stolen Valor Act, a law passed by Congress three years ago that makes it a federal crime to falsely claim to have received a medal from the military. Those convicted face up to a year in jail even if they haven’t profited from the lie.
Constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School says the law could violate the First Amendment protections of free speech because it, in effect, makes it illegal for someone to brag.
“Half the pickup lines in bars across the country could be criminalized under the concept,” Turley says.