The flag of the United States is the country’s most widely recognized symbol and for good reason. It represents a nation of freedom and liberty, and it’s popular enough that the design finds its way into clothing, decals and other ornamentation. Most public buildings can fly the flag, such as state buildings, public schools, libraries and so on.
Because U.S. flags are anywhere, you might think stealing one from a flagstaff or a building is a harmless prank. However, Missouri has strict laws about flag theft, and anyone caught in the act can face severe consequences.
State law on flag theft
According to Missouri law, stealing a U.S. national flag – especially one designed for outdoor display on buildings or stationary flagstaffs – is a crime. The law also states that this theft crime is a class C felony.
A class C felony carries a prison sentence between three to 10 years and fines of up to $10,000.
What if a minor commits flag theft?
Missouri’s juvenile code states that if a child (someone under 17 years of age) commits a crime such as flag theft, the act would be classified as a delinquent act. A juvenile court won’t treat children charged with delinquent acts as criminals but instead will approach them as individuals that need education and guidance.
However, if a juvenile has committed two or more prior unrelated felonies before the flag theft and is at least 12 years old, then a criminal court can prosecute them as an adult.
Missouri doesn’t take flag theft lightly, whether committed by a minor or an adult. If you or a relative face flag theft charges, you might want to consult with a legal professional who can discuss your defense options and find ways to negotiate for lighter penalties.