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United States v. Eichman

United States Supreme Court
496 U.S. 310 (1990)


Facts

In Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), the United States Supreme Court held that a Texas statute prohibiting the desecration of the U.S. flag was unconstitutional as applied to a person who had burned a flag during a political protest. After the Johnson decision, the U.S. Congress passed the Flag Protection Act of 1989 (the Act). The Act provided that anyone who knowingly "mutilates, defaces, physically defiles, burns, maintains on the floor or ground, or tramples upon any flag of the United States" would be punished by fine, imprisonment, or both. The Act contained an exception for disposing of a flag once it had become worn or soiled. Eichman (defendant) burned a U.S. flag on the steps of the U.S. Capitol as part of a protest of aspects of the government's domestic and foreign policy. The United States (plaintiff) prosecuted Eichman for violating the Act. Relying on Johnson, the district court held that the Act could not be constitutionally applied to Eichman and dismissed the charges. The United States appealed directly to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Brennan, J.)

Dissent (Stevens, J.)

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