Police Unclear on the First Amendment,

if this Asheville Citizen-Times report is correct:

A couple who said they were protesting the state of the country by flying the U.S. flag upside down with signs pinned to it found themselves in jail following a scuffle with a deputy Wednesday morning.

Mark and Deborah Kuhn were arrested on two counts of assault on a government employee, resisting arrest and a rarely used charge, desecrating an American flag, all misdemeanors....

Arrest reports show Buncombe County Sheriff’s deputy Brian Scarborough went to the Kuhns’ home on 68 Brevard Road about 8:45 a.m. Wednesday to investigate a complaint of an American flag on display after being desecrated.

State law prohibits anyone from knowingly mutilating, defiling, defacing or trampling the U.S. or North Carolina flags. Lt. Randy Sorrells of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office said the Kuhns desecrated the flag by pinning signs to it, not by flying it upside down....

The assault and resisting arrest charges may be proper, depending on what the facts are. But the Constitution does not allow punishment for desecrating the flag. U.S. v. Eichman so held as to a federal law punishing anyone who "mutilates, defaces, physically defiles, burns, maintains on the floor or ground, or tramples upon any flag of the United States." And the North Carolina law, "It shall be unlawful for any person willfully and knowingly to cast contempt upon any flag of the United States or upon any flag of North Carolina by public acts of physical contact including, but not limited to, mutilation, defiling, defacing or trampling," is indistinguishable for First Amendment purposes from the law struck down in Eichman.

Thanks to Matt Caplan for the pointer.