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Thread: Stolen Valor Act Unconstitutional ?

  1. #21
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    Default Hi Sam,

    you ancien LEO, good to see you - our hearts are in the same place.

    A bit North of you, we Michiganders have a statute:

    THE MICHIGAN PENAL CODE (EXCERPT)
    Act 328 of 1931
    750.218 False pretenses with intent to defraud; violation; penalty; enhanced sentence based on prior convictions; “false pretense” defined.
    ....
    (9) As used in this section, “false pretense” includes, but is not limited to, a false or fraudulent representation, writing, communication, statement, or message, communicated by any means to another person, that the maker of the representation, writing, communication, statement, or message knows is false or fraudulent. The false pretense may be a representation regarding a past or existing fact or circumstance or a representation regarding the intention to perform a future event or to have a future event performed.
    So, what you describe here:

    from selil
    As such to even merely make claim could be considered a fraudulent act.
    as a "fraudulent act", is clearly a "false pretense" as defined by 750.218.

    Now, that statute does limit the criminality of "false pretenses" to five general situations ([#]s added to point up elements) :

    Sec. 218. (1) A person who, [1] with the intent to defraud or cheat [2] makes or uses a false pretense [3] to do 1 or more of the following, is guilty of a crime punishable as provided in this section:

    (a) Cause a person to grant, convey, assign, demise, lease, or mortgage land or an interest in land.

    (b) Obtain a person's signature on a forged written instrument.

    (c) Obtain from a person any money or personal property or the use of any instrument, facility, article, or other valuable thing or service.

    (d) By means of a false weight or measure obtain a larger amount or quantity of property than was bargained for.

    (e) By means of a false weight or measure sell or dispose of a smaller amount or quantity of property than was bargained for.
    Part (c) [itals] covers a Hillar-type scheme.

    The statute as written does not expressly cover some of your examples:

    from selil
    ... monetary or significant compensation including assuaging license fees for vehicles (Pearl Harbor Survivor plates, MIA Plates, Disabled Veteran), increased consideration for employment (veterans preference, Purple Heart awardee).
    but a well-inclined judge could fit the statute to the facts if "false pretenses" were used to, say, apply for a license plate. Or, the statute could be amended to add cases to the present five general cases.

    But, what if person does not take the step of applying for something. We are then into the law of attempts - not a conspiracy which requires two or more persons.

    So, we look to the Michigan statute on attempts (emphasis added):

    THE MICHIGAN PENAL CODE (EXCERPT)
    Act 328 of 1931
    750.92 Attempt to commit crime.

    Sec. 92. Attempt to commit crime—Any person who shall attempt to commit an offense prohibited by law, and in such attempt shall do any act towards the commission of such offense, but shall fail in the perpetration, or shall be intercepted or prevented in the execution of the same, when no express provision is made by law for the punishment of such attempt, shall be punished as follows:
    .....
    [punishments depend on the punishment for the underlying offense]
    Certainly wearing the medal, uniform, etc. are acts. An underlying "intent to defraud or cheat" probably would follow or not follow from the context of the act. You don't have to be a lawyer to dream up facts that would or would not make an "act towards" and would or would not be "intent to" in the context of that act. In fact, those issues are typically questions of fact that are decided by juries, not judges.

    Thus, as you say, there may be room to shape the "Facts of the Case" and the "Law of the Case".

    Regards

    Mike

  2. #22
    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    I think there is a fundamental difference between impersonating an officer in order to commit a sex crime and pretending to have been a soldier in order to impress people.
    Your understanding of the Stolen Valor act is flawed.

    If I impersonate a military veteran, in order to get something in return, how is that different from impersonating a police officer? Or a fireman to gain access to a home to rob.

    The ####stain who beat his charges gained social status, job and monetary rewards by impersonating a military veteran.

    I fail to understand the difference.

  3. #23
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    Default Different strokes?

    120mm,

    On the cited Army Times report the fraudster was dealt with:
    Hillar, 66, of Millersville, Md., pleaded guilty March 29 to a single count of wire fraud in a federal court in Baltimore. As part of his plea, Hillar agreed to pay back $171,000 he made by lecturing universities, soldiers, and federal and local law enforcement agencies while falsely claiming he was a counter-terrorism expert and had earned doctorate from the University of Oregon. He also agreed to perform 500 hours of community service at the Maryland State Veterans Cemeteries.
    I would hardly call that, citing you:
    ..who beat his charges..
    Given his age I'm not surprised a non-custodial sentence was given and being revealed as a fraud, with the sentence will be enough for him. Fully accept his sentence may not be enough for veterans and those on active duty.

    On a lighter point I trust that you earlier post about:
    ...it should be legal for me to dress up like a police officer, drive a police looking car and pull over good looking women and offer them the opportunity to give sexual favors in return for not getting a ticket..
    Is: a) not an admission to past behaviour and b) any statute of limitations has now expired, if so behaviour occurred. So you may now return to the USA from that other place you love.
    davidbfpo

  4. #24
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 120mm View Post
    Your understanding of the Stolen Valor act is flawed.

    If I impersonate a military veteran, in order to get something in return, how is that different from impersonating a police officer? Or a fireman to gain access to a home to rob.
    My understanding of most things is flawed.

    A police officer has legal authority to detain people. He has police powers, statutory police powers. When someone impersonates a police officer, he is availing himself of official power falsely and can do a lot of harm with that falsely acquired power. So I figure that is why there are statutes prohibiting impersonating a police officer, to keep people from doing harm to others because others think the impersonator is backed up by legal authority. For example, you gotta stop if a police car turns on its' red lights. If somebody installs red lights on his car, impersonating an officer, and gets behind you and turns them on, you will stop where otherwise you would not have. People have done a lot of harm doing just that.

    Someone claiming veteran status has no official powers at all. None to my knowledge. He can't pull up next to you and wave his DD 214 in your face and expect you to pull over. He may be falsely acquiring social status of some kind, but if he gets that it is given because somebody wants to, not because he is obligated to by law. If somebody claims vet status to defraud the gov, that is already covered under criminal law.

    That is how I figure it. Mike, you can now tear that apart.
    Last edited by carl; 04-26-2011 at 05:04 PM.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  5. #25
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    Default Sure, Carl,

    if you want, I'll tear you apart; but since I don't want to, I won't. Too many people are tearing each other apart on too many threads - it must be something in the water from the new SWC water cooler.

    Anyway, here is your impersonating a LEO example:

    If somebody installs red lights on his car, impersonating an officer, and gets behind you and turns them on, you will stop where otherwise you would not have.
    You are including acts in the example - so it goes beyond speech.

    Suppose a guy (in civvies) says to you, in the course of a normal conversation, "I'm a Michigan State Trooper".

    Or, in the same type of situation, he says, "I'm retired Special Forces".

    In both cases, he is neither - so, in each case, there is a "false pretense".

    I see a distinction where there are acts accompanying the false pretense.

    The question is what difference should that distinction make.

    Regards

    Mike

  6. #26
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Mike:

    You can tear my attempt at legal reasoning apart. I don't mind that a bit because I'll learn from it. When lawyers tore me apart for real I was embarrassed but didn't hold it against them because they were doing their job and helping me to learn.

    To my mind the addition of the act makes the difference, especially an act that takes advantage of people's obligation to obey another law-you must stop when a police car turns on his lights. That is so serious a matter that it requires a criminal statute to punish and discourage it.

    Claiming to be a ex military whatever (a guy I know told me everybody he met in Texas of a certain age group was a sniper in 'Nam, part of the famous Texas Volunteer Sniper Division) might get you social status, but nobody is obligated to give you that status. In certain circles it might go against you. So that is not so serious a matter as to require a statute. It is one of those things that can be handled by informal social sanctions, like the group that exists to expose all the phony ex-SEALs out there.

    Sometimes, there oughn't a be a law.
    Last edited by carl; 04-26-2011 at 06:36 PM.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  7. #27
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    Default Now, you're getting into the wisdom and reasons

    for enacting a law in the first place.

    Those will vary from place to place. Let's look at this from a Hancock, MI perspective - which you've some handle on.

    If I had to characterize veterans status here (where I'm typing this), I'd say it amounts to an intangible property interest - created over the period of military service via the experiences and tests of that service; and perhaps leaving a body part or two behind.

    I'm not talking about VA benefits or the like; and not about social status. What I'm saying is that the guy who walks in here wearing a Marine Corps League jacket, or on other days, a USMC "Sniper" jacket, earned and retained something (as I said it is an intangible) that has a value that cannot be expressed in monetary terms. All property rights, tangible and intangible, deserve to be protected from impairment - that is a basic beyond doctrinal law.

    So, that, in my noggin, is what the Stolen Valor Act is really about. So, yeh, what I'm saying now ain't legal analysis - it's a belief, with which there is no argument.

    Go down the road 100 miles to Marquette - perhaps a different set of beliefs. Go down the road 500 miles to Ann Arbor - probably a different set of beliefs.

    If you'd ask me how I'd vote on the Stolen Valor Act - I'd vote "yes" (and would re-enact it just to let the courts know that I disagree with the decision).

    Regards

    Mike

  8. #28
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    If I had to characterize veterans status here (where I'm typing this), I'd say it amounts to an intangible property interest - created over the period of military service via the experiences and tests of that service; and perhaps leaving a body part or two behind.

    I'm not talking about VA benefits or the like; and not about social status. What I'm saying is that the guy who walks in here wearing a Marine Corps League jacket, or on other days, a USMC "Sniper" jacket, earned and retained something (as I said it is an intangible) that has a value that cannot be expressed in monetary terms. All property rights, tangible and intangible, deserve to be protected from impairment - that is a basic beyond doctrinal law.
    I understand your point, but I have some questions because I just don't know the applicable law.

    To a layman, property equates with the ability to sell something. If you can sell it, it's your property. If you can't sell it, it's not. So if you can't sell it, and you can't sell your status as a veteran, is it property? That is basically a question about whether property equates to the ability to sell is valid or to simple I guess.

    Second, is a property right a property interest and how would they relate?
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  9. #29
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    Default My point

    Hi Carl,

    My point is not that a body of law (simple or esoteric) states that military service gives rise to an intangible property interest that should not be impaired by imposters.

    My point is that I believe that military service gives rise to an intangible property interest that should not be impaired by imposters.

    What is derived in and from military service is a system of beliefs and values. Some of those beliefs are extremely strong - e.g., belief in a band of brothers such that one will die that the other may live. As such, those beliefs and values tend to be collective and collaberative - and they are very intangible.

    These basic links may not be helpful at all - Intangible property and Intangible asset. Both speak of "competitive intangible property" and "competitive intangibles" - which are not "up for sale", but which are one factor in gaining Competitive advantage.

    ------------------------------
    As stated, I have a belief in a set of beliefs. So, anyone is free to reject - unless, of course, we have a real vote and I win.

    That brings us to another point - which ties into our discussion about "rule of law" and "rule by law". The Stolen Valor Act was enacted according to our usual constitutional process. So, as close as we can get, it was a statute ordained and established by the People; and thus, a "rule of law".

    Once it was enacted, a minority special interest group headed into the Federal courts to set it aside. Same for the Marine Burial Case.

    Since the Federal courts are not elected, finding the People in that process is more difficult. In fact, that process appears more "rule by law" than "rule of law".

    We tolerate that judicial process because it adds another set of checks and balances to our constitutional equation - and because it used ti occur but rarely until my lifetime. That is just another intangible to think about.

    Regards

    Mike

  10. #30
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Mike:

    I believe a person should be judged on what they do and what they have done, as individuals. Their accomplishments are greater if they are harder and are judged thusly. That accomplishment is not diminished if Mr. Faker falsely claims to have done they did. I have never heard anybody say that their accomplishments were truly diminished by Mr. Faker. They still did the deed. What seems to be the main motivation is resentment toward Mr. Faker for getting something Mr. Faker didn't deserve. There is no indication that Mr. Faker's false claim costs the real deal anything. His reputation is not diminished, if it was Mr. Faker would have given up the game by now as unproductive. There have been many cases like this and I don't believe the respect and admiration for people with accomplished military records has been diminished.

    What should be derived from military service is an admirable set of beliefs and values, a set that is professed by the military. That set of beliefs and values is internalized by only some of the people who serve, not all. They may be able to fake it but they don't live it. In spite of this, that value system is still held up as the ideal and is admired. People know that an awful lot of guys don't live up to the ideal but that doesn't do fatal damage to the reputation of the institution or the people who were in it. If bad behavior by people in the institution doesn't fatally damage the respect for the service records of the good ones, I don't see how a Mr. Faker can do serious damage. People are discerning enough to make the distinction between good and bad troops and I think they can even more easily make the distinction between a real troop and Mr. Faker.

    It bothers me a little bit that the reputation of person a can be thought to have been impunged (sic) by person b's actions when person b's actions were not related to person a's actions at all. Person b didn't lie about person a, he lied about himself. The shame falls to him for what he did.

    I do see your point. But I just think it isn't so serious a matter as to require a criminal statute. Informal social sanctions can be pretty powerful and are sufficient for the purpose at hand, discouraging fakers.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  11. #31
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    Default It boils down to different beliefs ...

    No sin in that. If I excluded people on the basis of variant beliefs (esp. as to the wisdom of setting crimes and punishments), I'd have a dataset of one (me).

    Regards

    Mike

  12. #32
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    It seems to me the problem is that you're creating a special category for military service. Why should military service receive legal protection from fakers while other professions do not?
    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

  13. #33
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    Default Who says they are not

    REVISED JUDICATURE ACT OF 1961 (EXCERPT)
    Act 236 of 1961
    600.916 Unauthorized practice of law.

    Sec. 916. (1) A person shall not practice law or engage in the law business, shall not in any manner whatsoever lead others to believe that he or she is authorized to practice law or to engage in the law business, and shall not in any manner whatsoever represent or designate himself or herself as an attorney and counselor, attorney at law, or lawyer, unless the person is regularly licensed and authorized to practice law in this state. A person who violates this section is guilty of contempt of the supreme court and of the circuit court of the county in which the violation occurred, and upon conviction is punishable as provided by law. This section does not apply to a person who is duly licensed and authorized to practice law in another state while temporarily in this state and engaged in a particular matter.
    The argument (if that is being made) that the legislature must cover all professions if it covers one is suspect. Do you have any legal authority for that proposition ?

    Regards

    Mike

  14. #34
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    Mike,

    Fraud is fraud no matter what the profession. If someone tries to practice any licensed profession without the license then that is rightly illegal. That's not my point however. Let me put it this way: Should it be illegal for someone to claim they used to practice law, or won some award as a lawyer? I don't know of any profession where that is the case except for military service. Again, if someone is using that deception for material advantage, then that is fraud which is already criminalized. If someone falsely wears the uniform or military medals, then that has long been criminalized. In my opinion I don't think it's justified to criminalize merely lying about receiving military awards or any other award for that matter unless, of course, there is actual fraud involved.
    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

  15. #35
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    Default Your belief system ....

    on this topic is similar to Carl's and different from mine:

    1. A distinction where there are acts accompanying the false pretense - commonality.

    2. The question is what difference should that distinction make - if no acts

    3. Sometimes, there oughn't a be a law - Carl & Entropy.

    I feel much more strongly about the Stolen Valor Act than MI's "don't represent yourself as a lawyer" statute (the bolded part does not require an act, but only the "false pretense").

    Anyway, it's a matter of beliefs and adding up votes in either the legislatures or courts. That is probably frustrating to anyone who thinks logical reasoning and argument should prevail in all situations.

    There is nothing wrong with that, if it is basicially an academic discussion and if everyone signs on to the rules before the discussion begins. I'm talking about Van's Flow Chart:



    If I were a client and if my lawyer were to adopt Van's Discussion Rules, I would fire that lawyer real quick. Different arena - different rules.

    The bottom line is that intractible belief differences do not bother me in the least. We who win in Round 1, but lose in Round 2, can hope to win in Round 3. Hey, look at Alan West.

    Regards

    Mike

  16. #36
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    I'm not a lawyer obviously, so I do have some questions and based on what I've been able to read, the answers to both of these makes the act problematic:

    1. As a legal matter, is there any historical basis in case law for the stolen valor act?
    2. Is there any other profession in which similar apples-to-apples conduct is criminalized in a similar fashion as to what the stolen valor act does?

    And yes, I do come at this from a pretty strong pro-free speech position.
    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

  17. #37
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    Default As to both your questions ...

    1. As a legal matter, is there any historical basis in case law for the stolen valor act?

    2. Is there any other profession in which similar apples-to-apples conduct is criminalized in a similar fashion as to what the stolen valor act does?
    If one's bias (belief) lies in one direction, what someone coming from the other direction cites, either as an "historical basis" or as "similar apples-to-apples conduct", will not be seen by the first one as either "historical" or "apples-to-apples".

    In the real legal world, party 1 files his motion and brief; party 2 his answer and brief; the judge decides. That is a determinate process - one wins; the other loses.

    As far as I am concerned, I've cited both "historical basis" and "similar apples-to-apples conduct" for the Stolen Valor Act (and the Marine Burial Act, elsewhere). I'm sure I could spend much more time on both - write a long legal opinion letter, etc. For what purpose ? Ain't no judge of the case going to be reading it.

    Regards

    Mike

  18. #38
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    If one's bias (belief) lies in one direction, what someone coming from the other direction cites, either as an "historical basis" or as "similar apples-to-apples conduct", will not be seen by the first one as either "historical" or "apples-to-apples".
    Well, all people are biased and all arguments are biased to include both yours and mine. That's kind of the point of argument and debate to begin with. But I get that you don't want to discuss this further which is fine by me. I'm perfectly content to agree to disagree.
    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

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    Default SCOTUS Update

    Sonia McNeil at Lawfare has a good summary of the Stolen Valor Act oral argument before SCOTUS Weds, Lies, Crimes, and United States v. Alvarez, outlining several possible outcomes besides outright affirmance or reversal. The article has numerous links (in the snips below, I've hyperlinked only a few to original documents in the case).

    Wednesday’s oral argument on the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act generated a flurry of anticipatory and postmortem coverage, as well as divided commentary. The brief of the United States is here, the respondent’s brief is here, and a transcript of the oral argument is here.
    ...
    Observers note at least two possible ways to uphold the Stolen Valor Act. Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Stephen Breyer appeared to support arguments which avoid the First Amendment and frame the Act as means of safeguarding the military’s ability to show appreciation for service, thus “protecting the rough equivalent of a government trademark covering military honors.” The United States mentions this argument in its brief, but the theory is explored more fully in an amicus brief filed in support of the government by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and other service associations. “At its core,” the amici argue,

    this case is about theft, not lying in general. It is undisputed that the First Amendment does not protect people who falsely claim to have received military awards in order to fraudulently receive tangible or pecuniary benefits . . . . This Court likewise should conclude that the First Amendment does not protect those who wrongly appropriate for themselves the intangible, nonpecuniary advantages and acclaim that flow from the goodwill associated with military awards they have not earned.
    The Court’s alternative, grounded in the doctrine of constitutional avoidance, seems to be essentially to rewrite the Stolen Valor Act. Although a competing tradition stresses that “judges should not actually rewrite a law to make it constitutionally acceptable . . . sometimes the line between the two traditions is quite blurred.” Judge Smith’s opinion for the Ninth Circuit suggested a great deal would have to be read into the Act to save it, while Solicitor General Donald Verrilli emphasized during oral argument that the Act covers only “a carefully limited and narrowly drawn category of calculated factual falsehoods.” The extent to which the sharply divided Court agreed with either view is not clear.

    If the Court does strike down the Act, however, Congress may respond. Last May, Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV) introduced the Stolen Valor Act of 2011. The amended Act would expand the statements subject to penalty by making it a crime knowingly to misrepresent past service in a combat zone or special operations force, as well as to claim falsely to have received military honors. An offense under the new Act would also require, however, that the misrepresentation was made “with intent to obtain anything of value.”
    Now we can wait, realizing that what SCOTUS holds as to the present statute will not likely be an end to the story.

    Regards

    Mike

  20. #40
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    Default Much as I dislike Congress...

    I like what Congressman Joe Heck's version is angling at, that the misrepresentation is made “with intent to obtain anything of value.” The Libertarian in me believes the issue devolves down to what the end result of the lie is.

    A person who sits in a bar and claims to have been a Navy SEAL is a liar. If he uses that lie to get a job he has committed fraud. Currently there is no law that proscribes anyone from claiming they are a Navy SEAL, but there are several websites devoted to debunking posers and shaming them into ceasing their posing. True, some people are pathological liars and a public shaming may not work, so be it. But most posers are just extreme Walter Mittys and usually the embarrassment of being outed as a poser is enough.

    My concern is the whole freedom of speech and expression versus fraudulent activities. As a libertarian I feel government has no business regulating my private activities. The less government the better. The “Stolen Valor” law needs to be recrafted to be of a fraudulent gain through false pretenses with remuneration to the aggrieved party law. That way it covers not just fraudulent MoH cases, but also someone posing as a veteran to get VA benefits, a person claiming a PhD to get a professorship, and padding a resume. What it doesn’t cover, and shouldn’t, are garrulous posers who make unsubstantiated claims at a bar or a party or like to play dress up on a socila networking site or a party.

    When one gets creative on a resume it is incumbent on an employer to do the due diligence to verify an individual’s bona fides prior to hiring them. If the lies result in a job and then are discovered later that is fraud. Under the type of overarching statute I outlined above the employer could regain past wages and benefits paid. Or the VA could recoup past benefits rendered. It works in a variety of scenarios, not just specific ones in regards to decorations and service. A national database could also be set up similar to the sex offender one so future fraud by those individuals caught could be available.

    To Entrophy's earlier question as to other cases in any other professions I would cite Ward Churchill, former professor at the University of Colorado. While his behavior was not, and has not, been criminalized, it did cost him as far as position and credibility.
    "What is best in life?" "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women."

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