Stolen Valor Crimes & Defenses


  • Author Criminal Defense Lawyer Dave D
  • Published October 2, 2020
  • Word count 643

Misrepresentation of Military Service

PC 532b Law & Defense

Information on the crime of misrepresentation of military service is found at California penal code section 532b.

Essentially, it is a crime for the defendant to pretend to have been in the military in order to deceive another person to that person's financial detriment or to receive a benefit to which the defendant would not otherwise have been entitled. It is also a crime to wear, display, or state that a military award, decoration, or medal was earned when that statement is knowingly false (aka Stolen Valor).

​Related Law

​PC 532b(a): It is a crime for a person to to misrepresents himself or herself as a veteran of a war in which the United States was engaged, in connection with the soliciting of aid or the sale or attempted sale of any property (PC 532b(a) Abbrev.), or to obtain money, property or other tangible benefit (PC 532b(b).

PC 532b(c)(1) Stolen Valor: It is a crime to display by wearing, or state (orally or in writing) military decoration, medals, or awards that have not been earned in order to fraudulently obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit (PC 532b(c)(1)).

​Note: If the person fraudulently displaying medals, decoration, or awards that were not earned in order to defraud another person, but the defendant was, or is, actually in the military, the crime may be charged as a misdemeanor or as an infraction.

In addition, it is a crime to misrepresent military service by wearing a United State military uniform or medals, or to state military service, knowing that the statement is false, in any of these situations:

To promote a business or charity

To gain an employment advantage

To obtain money or property

​To state in any legal documents that a person is veteran where the issue of being a veteran is relevant to a benefit or advantage

​Military Decoration: A military decoration means any decoration, medal, badge, ribbon, award, or imitation of these awards, from the Armed Forces of the United States, the California National Guard, or the State Military Reserve.

PC 532b Penalties

​Note: The penalties for all PC 532b crimes are virtually the same; therefore, for brevity, only the penalties for PC 532b(a) Misrepresentation of Military Service are shown.

​Jail: PC 532b(a) Misrepresentation of Military Service is charged as a misdemeanor. If the defendant is found guilty of PC 532b(a), the defendant could face up to 180 days in the county jail.

​Probation: A probation sentence is period of being monitored by the court as opposed to being sentence to jail. Probation sentences are allowed in PC 532b cases, but they are not guaranteed. Whether or not the defendant will be granted a probation sentence after a conviction for fraudulent representation of military service depends on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history, if any (other factors may apply).

​CIMT: Misrepresentation of military service and stolen valor are likely crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT). CIMT are crimes that involve deceit or are otherwise inherently and morally wrong. CIMT carry collateral punishments for persons seeking to maintain a professional license or for persons with immigration concerns.

Note: The law is not settled on whether PC 532b crimes are CIMT, but it is best to be safe and avoid these convictions (seek alternative immigration safe pleas) for defendant's who have immigration or professional licensing concerns.

​In addition to the punishments listed above, if found guilty of misrepresentation of military service or stolen valor, the defendant could face fines and fees, denial of entry into the military, criminal protective orders, restitution, and more.

​PC 532b Defenses

​Common defenses to fraudulently representing military service, or stolen valor, include: mistake of fact, insufficient evidence, no evidence of fraud in connection with wearing a military uniform (Costume), insanity, and more.

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