Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Brubaker

Pennsylvania resident charged with flag desecration after spray-painting the initials "A.I.M." on an American flag, then hanging the flag upside down on his home.

Court/Assoc.: Court of Common Pleas of Blair County

Attorneys/Firms: Shubin Law Office, Sara Rose, ACLU of Pennsylvania

Joshuaa Brubaker, part Native American by birth, spray-painted "A.I.M." on an American Flag to express his distress over a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision. Brubaker claimed that by displaying "A.I.M.," which stands for "American Indian Movement," on his flag, he was attempting to make people think about how "our freedoms are taken away from us more and more every day." On May 14, 2014, Brubaker's flag was seized from his home by Allegheny Township police and he was charged with flag desecration. 

On May 1, 2015, a Blair County Court of Common Pleas judge ruled that Brubaker’s conduct in hanging an American flag upside down with the letters “A.I.M.” painted on it was political speech protected by the First Amendment and could not be subject to criminal prosecution under Pennsylvania flag insult and flag desecration statutes.

On February 24, 2016, Mr. Brubaker filed a lawsuit against Allegheny Township claiming the initial charges violated his free-speech rights.

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