UNITED STATES v. O'BRIEN

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
232
Petitioner 
United States
Respondent 
O'Brien
Consolidation 
No. 233
Advocates
(Argued the cause for O'Brien)
(Argued the cause for the United States)
Tags
Term:
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 
Decision: 7 votes for United States, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Selective Service, Military Selective Service, or Universal Military Service and Training Acts

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."

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UNITED STATES v. O'BRIEN. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 21 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1967/1967_232>.
UNITED STATES v. O'BRIEN, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1967/1967_232 (last visited September 21, 2014).
"UNITED STATES v. O'BRIEN," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 21, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1967/1967_232.