Flag Protection Act

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Flag Protection Act of 1968
Great Seal of the United States
Other short titlesFlag Desecration Penalties Act of 1968
Long titleAn Act to prohibit desecration of the flag and for other purposes.
Acronyms (colloquial)FPA
NicknamesFlag Protection Act of 1968
Enacted bythe 90th United States Congress
EffectiveJuly 5, 1968
Public law90-381
Statutes at Large82 Stat. 291-2
Titles amended18 U.S.C.: Crimes and Criminal Procedure
U.S.C. sections created18 U.S.C. ch. 33 §§ 700-713
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 10480
  • Passed the House on June 20, 1967 (387-16)
  • Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 5, 1968
United States Supreme Court cases

Reacting to protests during the Vietnam War era, the United States 90th Congress enacted Public Law 90-381 (82 Stat. 291), later codified as 18 U.S.C. 700, et. seq., and better known as the Flag Protection Act of 1968. It was an expansion to nationwide applicability of a 1947 law previously restricted only to the District of Columbia (See 61 Stat. 642).

In 1989, the 101st Congress amended that statute with Public Law 101-131 (103 Stat. 777). These amendments to the statute were in response to the United States Supreme Court's ruling that year in the case of Texas v. Johnson (491 U.S. 397). On June 11, 1990, the Supreme Court in the case of United States v. Eichman struck down the Flag Protection Act, ruling again that the government's interest in preserving the flag as a symbol does not outweigh the individual's First Amendment right to disparage that symbol through expressive conduct.[1]


The text of the law reads:

  • (a)(1) Whoever knowingly mutilates, defaces, physically defiles, burns, maintains on the floor or ground, or tramples upon any flag of the United States shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.
  • (2) This subsection does not prohibit any conduct consisting of the disposal of a flag when it has become worn or soiled.
  • (b) As used in this section, the term "flag of the United States" means any flag of the United States, or any part thereof, made of any substance, of any size, in a form that is commonly displayed.
  • (c) Nothing in this section shall be construed as indicating an intent on the part of Congress to deprive any State, territory, possession, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico of jurisdiction over any offense over which it would have jurisdiction in the absence of this section.
  • (d)(1) An appeal may be taken directly to the Supreme Court of the United States from any interlocutory or final judgment, decree, or order issued by a United States district court ruling upon the constitutionality of subsection (a).
  • (2) The Supreme Court shall, if it has not previously ruled on the question, accept jurisdiction over the appeal and advance on the docket and expedite to the greatest extent possible.

See also[edit]