By Sam Lea,
Military Speech Correspondent
Florida Statute Section 250.43 prohibits citizens from wearing military uniforms or insignia unless they are actually in the military. (When I first read this, my mind went straight to characters like Lieutenant Dan and Gary Busey in Tommy Boy).
In a recent challenge to the Florida statute, a man was arrested at the Orlando International Airport under Section 250.43 after he stood in the “expedited security lane” that is set aside for military and security personnel. TSA officers approached him suspecting that he was not in the military due to the length of his hair.
When he could not produce a military ID, Montas admitted that he was not in the Army. He was arrested and charged with one count of wearing a uniform and insignia of rank, in violation of section 250.43, Florida Statutes (2007).
Authorities claim the man was wearing the uniform to receive better treatment. The defendant countered by claiming that he was wearing the uniform to show his support for the military. (link to the story )
Although the 5th DCA dismissed the notion that the Defendant was actually attempting to convey a “particularized message,” they did find that the statute was overbroad.
The Court concluded that while there was compelling governmental interest in ensuring that the public is not deceived by people impersonating members of the military, the statute was not narrowly tailored to address that goal. (link to decision )
While the statute does contain exceptions for theatrical productions or parades, the statute remains overly broad. For example, the law criminalizes conduct such as a child wearing his parent’s Army boots or a person wearing a military uniform for Halloween. At the very least, as the Court points out, the statute should have contained some sort of “intent to deceive” element.