State Lawmaker Wants To Make It A Felony To Steal US Flag

Published: Monday, December 19, 2016 - 7:53am
Updated: Monday, December 19, 2016 - 2:37pm

A Republican state lawmaker wants to make it an automatic felony to steal an American flag that’s on display. The proposal will be considered in the 2017 legislative session.

Under existing state law, the theft of a flag would likely be a misdemeanor if its monetary value is less than $1,000. The penalty for that is up to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Senate Bill 1009 would boost that penalty to a year in state prison and it would allow a judge to impose a fine of up to $150,000. The bill’s sponsor, John Kavanagh, said the enhanced punishment is justified.

"It’s not just the flag that is stolen when it's on display," explained Kavanagh, "it’s the First Amendment expressive right of the person displaying it." 

While Supreme Court rulings do protect activities like burning the flag as a constitutional right of expression, attorneys with the ACLU said they know of no law that would prohibit a tougher penalty for the theft of a U.S. flag.

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