In the State of Utah, it is possible to face criminal charges for defacing, destroying, or mutilating the United States flag. While this law is technically on the books in Utah, there is much debate as to whether or not it is enforceable. Lawmakers enacted the law because they felt the destruction of the flag was morally repugnant and the flag should be treated with patriotic respect. However, the first amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees all citizens the right to freedom of expression and speech. No matter how uncomfortable or upsetting, symbolic acts of protest are generally regarded as acts of expression and are protected under the first amendment. Desecration of the flag may fall under this category of protected speech.
Utah Criminal Code § 76-9-6 strictly prohibits the destruction or defacing of the flag and makes it a punishable offense. These laws still exist, but the authorities may lack the power to enforce them. If you have been charged with the abuse or desecration of the flag, contact our Utah lawyer for Criminal Code § 76-9-6 offenses against the flag at Overson Law, PLLC. Call (801) 758-2287 to schedule a free legal consultation about getting your charges dismissed.
Definition of Offenses Against the Flag in Utah
The various offenses against the flag with which you may be charged are spelled out in section § 76-9-6 of the Utah Criminal Code. The Code lists three methods of desecrating or defacing the flag that are considered criminal offenses.
First, it is a crime to place any unauthorized inscription, like a symbol or phrase, across the United States flag or any state’s flag. It will also be a criminal offense to knowingly display a flag with an unauthorized phrase or symbol written across it. For example, displaying a flag with a swear word written across it would be a crime under this law. Finally, any public mutilation, defacing, or destruction of the flag will result in criminal charges.
These three sections of this law, taken as a whole, make it a crime to deface the flag or display a flag that has been desecrated. A defendant is likely to be arrested for such a crime when they deface the flag as part of a public protest or demonstration. If you have been charged with an offense against the flag, you should call our Utah attorney for Criminal Code § 76-9-6 offenses against the flag at Overson Law, PLLC.
Penalties for Offenses Against the Flag in Utah
Abuse of the flag of the United States is considered a class B misdemeanor. Such a misdemeanor is punishable by no more than 6 months in prison. The penalty for offenses against the flag is relatively minimal but should still be taken very seriously. Punishing a defendant for defacing the flag is the same as punishing them for exercising their freedom of speech and expression.
The penalties for offenses against the flag may be unlawful and your charges may be dismissed. If you were charged with abusing the flag as part of a protest, demonstration, or another form of political speech, you should immediately contact our Utah lawyer for Criminal Code § 76-9-6 offenses against the flag at Overson Law, PLLC. We can help you protect your rights and freedom of speech.
Freedom of Speech Defenses for Flag Burning and Other Offenses Against the Flag in Utah
The offenses mentioned above were likely enacted to promote a sense of patriotism among citizens and to shield people from upsetting displays of protest, such as flag burning. However, these laws infringe upon your fundamental rights as guaranteed by the Constitution. All citizens are guaranteed the right to free speech and expression, even if the message they convey is unpopular or controversial. In 1989, the United States Supreme Court agreed with that sentiment and held that “abuse” of the flag is protected speech.
In the U.S. Supreme Court case Texas v. Johnson (1989), a man was arrested for burning the United States flag as part of a protest against then-President Ronald Reagan’s administration. The man was arrested and sentenced under a Texas law that prohibits abuse or destruction of the flag. He appealed his case to the Supreme Court and won. The Court held that the destruction of the flag, when done as part of political speech, cannot be punished by law. Destruction or abuse of the flag is constitutionally protected speech.
While flag abuse laws were largely invalidated at the federal level, many states still have them on their books. While these laws technically exist, they are not legally enforceable. Law enforcement does not always know that certain laws are invalid or unenforceable and may try to enforce them mistakenly. If this is the case with your charges, you should consult our Utah lawyer for Criminal Code § 76-9-6 offenses against the flag at Overson Law, PLLC. It is possible we can have your charges dropped.
Contact Our Utah Attorney for Criminal Code 76-9-6 Offenses Against the Flag for a Free Legal Consultation
For many people, destruction or abuse of the flag goes against their sense of patriotism. Understandably, the destruction of the flag would make some people very uncomfortable. However, you still have the right to free speech and expression and these rights cannot be taken away or infringed upon simply because others are uncomfortable. If you or someone you know has been charged with offenses against the flag, reach out to our Utah lawyer for Criminal Code § 76-9-6 offenses against the flag at Overson Law, PLLC. Call (801) 758-2287 to schedule a free legal consultation.