United States v. Eichman

Facts of the Case

Defendants in separate cases were prosecuted for burning a United States flag as an act of protest in violation of the Flag Protection Act of 1989. In both cases, the district courts dismissed the charges on the grounds that the Act, both on its face and as applied, violated the First Amendment of the Constitution. The United States appealed both decisions. The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed.

Question

Did the Act violate freedom of expression protected by the First Amendment?

CONCLUSION

In a 5-to-4 decision, coming on the heels of a similar holding in Texas v. Johnson (1989), the Court struck down the law because its asserted interest is related to the suppression of free expression and concerned with the content of such expression. Allowing the flag to be burned in a disposal ceremony but prohibiting protestors from setting it ablaze at a political protest made that clear, argued Justice Brennan in one of his final opinions.

Case Information

  • Citation: 496 US 310 (1990)
  • Argued: May 14, 1990
  • Decided Jun 11, 1990