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Constitutional Law Keyed to Maggs
United States v. O’Brien
Citation:391 U.S. 367 (1968)
On the morning of March 31, 1966, David Paul O’Brien and three companions burned their Selective Service registration certificates on the steps of the South Boston Courthouse. A sizable crowd witnessed the event. Immediately after the burning, members of the crowd began attacking O’Brien and his companions. O’Brien was convicted and sentenced in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. He did not contest the fact that he burned the certificate. He stated that he burned it publicly to influence others to adopt his antiwar beliefs so that other people would reevaluate their positions with Selective Service, with the armed forces. O’Brien was charged with violating the Universal Military Training and Service Act of 1948 that criminalizes a person who forces, alters, knowingly destroys any certificate.
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