United States v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968)

http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1967/1967_232

Facts of the Case:
David O'Brien burned his draft card at a Boston courthouse. He said he was expressing his opposition to war. He was convicted under a federal law that made the destruction or mutilation of drafts card a crime.

Question:
Was the law an unconstitutional infringement of O'Brien's freedom of speech?

Conclusion:
No. The 7-to-1 majority, speaking through Chief Justice Earl Warren, established a test to determine whether governmental regulation involving symbolic speech was justified. The formula examines whether the regulation is unrelated to content and narrowly tailored to achieve the government's interest. "[W]e think it clear," wrote Warren," that a government regulation is sufficiently justified if it is within the constitutional power of the Government; if it furthers an important or substantial governmental interest; if the governmental interest is unrelated to the suppression of free expression; and if the incidential restriction on alleged First Amendment freedoms is not greater than is essential to the furtherance of that interest."

Decisions

Decision: 7 votes for United States, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Selective Service, Military Selective Service, or Universal Military Service and Training Acts

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