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Constitutional Law Keyed to Barnett
United States v. O’Brien
Citation:391 U.S. 367 (1968)
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Three individuals burned their selective service registration in public in Boston. Immediately after the men burned the certificates, bystanders began attacking them. One of the men, O’Brien, was indicted, tried, convicted, and sentenced for burning his certificate, under the Universal Military Training and Service Act of 1948, which made it a crime to “knowingly destroy . . . mutilate,” or change the certificate. O’Brien did not contest the facts, but argued that he burned his certificate to “influence others to adopt his antiwar beliefs,” and that the First Amendment includes protection for communication of ideas by conduct.
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