‘Stolen Valor’ Act introduced in House of Representatives

DOVER – People seeking benefits by posing as veterans or active duty military personnel would face a stiff fine under new legislation pending action in the State House of Representatives.

House Bill 80 seeks to expand the crime of “criminal impersonation” to include those who falsely claim to be current or past members of the U.S. military for the purpose of “obtaining money, property, or other tangible benefit.”

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State Representative Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, has introduced new legislation that would impose stiff fines for people seeking benefits by posing as veterans or active duty military personnel.

 

Sponsored by State Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, the proposed statute would be a Class A misdemeanor and carry a minimum fine of $1,000.

In a 2012 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the federal Stolen Valor Act was unconstitutional.  Under that law, it was a crime to lie about having received a military decoration or medal.  Those found guilty of the offense faced up to a year in prison if the violation involved the military’s highest honors.   In a six-to-three decision, the High Court found that the law infringed on an individual’s right to protected speech.

Rep. Collins said his legislation differs considerably from the failed federal statute.

“House Bill 80 specifically deals with those people that are engaging in fraud by misrepresenting their status in an attempt to get money or other definite benefit,” he said.

So far, the bill has modest bipartisan support, with a total of 13 legislators signing on as sponsors or co-sponsors.

“I don’t think it’s clearly understood yet that my bill does not run afoul of the constitutional issues that doomed the federal law,” Rep. Collins said.  “As it moves through the legislative process, and lawmakers become more familiar with it, I’m confident that it will pick up steam and gather more sponsors.”

Rep. Collins said his bill was modeled after legislation introduced earlier this year in the New Jersey Senate.

House Bill 80 is currently pending action in the House Judiciary Committee.  The General Assembly is currently in recess for the two-week break. Lawmakers return to action April 21.

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