HARTFORD – During this week’s session, State Representative Arthur J. O’Neill (R-69) voted in favor of a measure which defines the crime of falsely representing oneself as having a military medal or decoration, or wearing a uniform of one of the armed forces that one is not authorized to wear in an attempt to fraudulently obtain money, property, or any other goods or services.
“Most people would feel that wearing a military uniform one is not authorized to wear, or displaying medals one has not earned would be a very low act,” said Rep. O’Neill. “Yet there are those who would do so. Worse yet, there are those who do in an attempt to exploit the good nature of individuals or private and public organizations that support veterans and members of the Armed Forces. Such actions are an insult to those who have truly earned such status and honors.”
Sampson noted that there are numerous opportunities meant for legitimate veterans such as those for veteran-owned businesses and service-disabled veterans which should be protected and preserved for those they are intended to help.
The bill is in response to the U. S. Supreme Court’s ruling in U.S. v. Alvarez which stated that the federal military medal misrepresentation statute was unconstitutional because it violated a person's First Amendment right to free speech. The plurality opinion stated there is no general First Amendment exception for false statements, but acknowledged there are many laws punishing or criminalizing false statements that cause definite and identifiable harm through fraud.
“The Supreme Court may have ruled that those who might pretend to such honors and status are protected by free speech” said Rep. O’Neill. “But we can criminalize the fraudulent use of such honors when the offender is attempting to defraud others and essentially enrich themselves through their use.”
If enacted, penalties for violations would range between $500 and $1000 fines, up to six months in prison, or both.
An Act Concerning Military Valor, HB 5293, passed the House on Wednesday afternoon and heads to the State Senate for action there. This session of the Connecticut General Assembly adjourns at midnight, May 7th, 2014.