Lying about serving in the military or earning decorations and accommodations doesn’t occur to most people. Surprisingly, however, it happens frequently in this country. The FBI receives about 50 new cases a week of possible violations of the Stolen Valor Act.

For some, the honor and recognition received by veterans for serving their country is tempting. Creating the lie has proven easy for many, with military uniforms and medals found all over surplus stores and eBay. Anyone can learn the details of wars and battles through diligent research, and some go as far as forging military documents to prove their service. Real veterans and their families are rightfully offended by these false claims, and have been strong advocates for legislation against it.

Faking military records has a complex legal history in the United States. In 2005, the Stolen Valor Act was signed into law by then President George W. Bush. The Act made it a federal crime to lie about receiving a United States military decoration or medal. In 2007, a new board member of a local utility in California lied about having been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was indicted under the Stolen Valor Act, and argued that the law and the charges were an unconstitutional violation of his right to free speech. The case was eventually appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, who struck down the Stolen Valor Act as unconstitutional. The Court held that the government cannot constitutionally restrict speech for its falsity alone.

The Supreme Court’s decision was unpopular in Washington and with Veterans organizations across the country, and in 2013 President Obama signed a new Stolen Valor Act into law. The current law makes it illegal to falsify military records with the intent to gain money, property, or other tangible benefits. Punishments under the Federal law include fines and imprisonment of up to a year.

Pennsylvania legislators have recently moved to increase the penalties statewide for falsifying military records. Currently, faking military records in Pennsylvania is a summary offense, which is the same severity of offense as disorderly conduct or loitering. Conviction of a summary offense can result in no more than a fine. State senators recently voted unanimously in favor of increased penalties for falsifying military records. Should the bill be signed into law, lying about being awarded a military decoration for personal gain will be a third degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. It will be punishable by up to 90 days in jail. Falsely wearing a Congressional Medal of Honor, a Navy Cross, an Air Force Cross, a Silver Star, or a Purple Heart, will carry a harsher sentence.

If you’ve been accused of falsifying military records, you could face both State and Federal charges. To avoid the serious consequences of a conviction, contact a Pennsylvania defense attorney at (215) 839-9529.

View All Blogs