The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Man Receives Misdemeanor For Unauthorized Military Uniform

A Palm Springs man now faces charges from federal prosecutors for wearing unauthorized military medals after he was seen and photographed wearing a military uniform with decorations.

Steve Burton, 39, has never served in the military, but he allegedly wore a uniform to a high school reunion that displayed several medals, including the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and others, according to an affidavit filed in United States District Court. A Navy commander, who attended the reunion, contacted the FBI after she developed suspicion that Burton had not really served in the military. 

After an FBI investigation, authorities found that Burton had spoke of his "combat experience" and "Marine experience" in Afghanistan and Iraq through Internet postings in online communities.

Burton's case is considered a misdemeanor offense at the federal level becasue of his alleged display of unauthorized military medals. He can serve up to one year in federal prison for the offense, if convicted.

Some Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers have become critical of the law that does not authorize a person to wear a military medal that he or she did not earn. Is this law outdated? Or is the law simply too harsh on victims who probably only aspire to have the honor of being in the armed services?