The U.S. Flag Code
This code is a guide for all types of handling and the display of the American flag. The code is not strict on imposing penalties for the misuse of the flag. Imposing fines and penalties is left to the different states and to the government for the District of Columbia as each state has its own flag law.
Criminal penalties for certain acts of desecration to the American flag were contained in Title 18 of the United States Code prior to 1989. The Supreme Court decision on June 1989, held the statute unconstitutional. This statute was amended when the Flag Protection Act of 1989 imposed a fine and/or up to 1 year in prison for knowingly mutilating, defacing, physically defiling, maintaining on the floor or trampling upon any flag of the United States. The Flag Protection Act of 1989 was struck down by the Supreme Court decision, decided on June 1990.
While the Flag Code empowers the President of the United States to alter, modify, repeal or prescribe additional rules regarding the American flag, no federal agency has the authority to issue ‘official’ rulings legally binding on civilians. Consequently, different interpretations of various provisions of the Flag Code may continue to be made. The Flag Code may be fairly tested: ‘No disrespect should be shown to the Flag of the United States of America.’ Therefore, actions not specifically included in the Flag Code may be deemed acceptable as long as proper respect is shown.