2021 Georgia Code
Title 50 - State Government
Chapter 3 - State Flag, Seal, and Other Symbols
Article 1 - State and Other Flags
§ 50-3-9. Abuse of Federal, State, or Confederate Flag Unlawful

Universal Citation: GA Code § 50-3-9 (2021)

It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to mutilate, deface, defile, or abuse contemptuously the flag of the United States, the flag, coat of arms, or emblem of the State of Georgia, or the flag or emblem of the Confederate States of America by any act whatever.

(Ga. L. 1960, p. 985, § 2.)

Cross references.

- Offenses against public order and safety, T. 16, C. 11.

JUDICIAL DECISIONS

Editor's notes.

- Many of these annotations were based on cases decided prior to the U.S. Supreme Court decisions as to burning of the flag of the United States (See Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 109 S. Ct. 2533, 105 L. Ed. 2d 342 (1989) and United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310, 110 S. Ct. 2404, 110 L. Ed. 2d 287 (1990)).

In light of the similarity of the statutory provisions, decisions under former Code 1933, § 26-2803, which was subsequently repealed but was succeeded by provisions in this Code section, are included in the annotations for this Code section.

O.C.G.A.

§ 50-3-9 is not unconstitutional. - Language of this section making it unlawful to mutilate, deface, defile, or contemptuously abuse the flags by any act is not vague, uncertain, or indefinite, and this section is accordingly not unconstitutional. Hinton v. State, 223 Ga. 174, 154 S.E.2d 246 (1967), rev'd on other grounds sub nom. Anderson v. Georgia, 390 U.S. 206, 88 S. Ct. 902, 19 L. Ed. 2d 1039 (1968).

Freedom of speech not involved in prohibitions in O.C.G.A. § 50-3-9. - Conduct sought to be prohibited by this section is conduct which shows open disrespect for the flag, and no question of freedom of speech is involved. Hinton v. State, 223 Ga. 174, 154 S.E.2d 246 (1967), rev'd on other grounds sub nom. Anderson v. Georgia, 390 U.S. 206, 88 S. Ct. 902, 19 L. Ed. 2d 1039 (1968); Monroe v. State, 250 Ga. 30, 295 S.E.2d 512 (1982).

Flag burning is not protected by the free speech provision of the First Amendment as the state's interest in protecting the physical integrity of the United States flag justifies regulation of both specific destructive conduct toward the flag and minor limitations on symbolic speech concomitant to that conduct. Monroe v. State, 250 Ga. 30, 295 S.E.2d 512 (1982).

Conviction for mutilating, defacing, and defiling a flag upheld. See Bowles v. State, 168 Ga. App. 763, 310 S.E.2d 250 (1983), cert. denied, 465 U.S. 1112, 104 S. Ct. 1619, 80 L. Ed. 2d 148 (1984).

Cited in Monroe v. State Court, 560 F. Supp. 542 (N.D. Ga. 1983).

RESEARCH REFERENCES

Am. Jur. 2d.

- 35A Am. Jur. 2d, Flag, §§ 3, 4.

C.J.S.

- 36A C.J.S., Flags, §§ 3, 4.

ALR.

- What constitutes violation of flag desecration statutes, 41 A.L.R.3d 502.

Validity, and standing to challenge validity, of state statute prohibiting flag desecration and misuse, 31 A.L.R.6th 333.

Propriety of prohibition of display or wearing of confederate flag, 66 A.L.R.6th 493.

Propriety of prohibition of display or wearing of confederate flag, 66 A.L.R.6th 493.

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