Stolen Valor Act struck down by Supreme Court
Violators protected by First Amendment rights
SAN ANTONIO - In the midst of the health care debate, the Supreme Court has made another decision that is drawing controversy.
As it stands now, lying about service to your country may be reprehensible, but not punishable in a court of law.
It is called the Stolen Valor Act and has been used to prosecute men like Angel Ocasio, who was caught in Florida wearing medals that he never earned.
It was also used to bring charges against Californian official Xavier Alvarez, who falsely claimed he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Alvarez’s case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The court ruled 6-3 that Alvarez was protected by the First Amendment, which ensures Freedom of Speech.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote: "It protects the speech we detest as well as the speech we embrace."
The decision did not sit well with local veterans.
"If it’s freedom of speech then it should be free for anybody to walk around and say they are whoever they are – I’m the mayor of San Antonio; I’m a police chief," said Vietnam veteran Charles Zambrano.
He added that medals that are earned courageously do not mean anything if the Act is not enforced.
Other veterans agreed.
"It’s very offensive to me. I spent 23 years in the military," said David Nichols, who served in Vietnam, Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
"Anyone that would do that has no self-respect," responded Vietnam veteran Albert Trevino.
Trevino owns a military supply store and said medals could be easily bought, but had this word of warning:
"In this day in age of information, it’s very likely that he’s going to get caught," Trevino said.
For now, once caught, those lying can only be exposed, not prosecuted.
Copyright 2012 by KSAT.com All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.