Virginia v. Black

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Virginia v. Black
Court Supreme Court of the United States
Date decided April 7, 2003
Appealed from Supreme Court of Virginia


A Virginia statute made cross-burning a prima facie evidence of the intent to intimidate with a racial bias.

Black (a Ku Klux Klan member) burned a cross on private property with the consent of the owner in Virginia.

Procedural History

Black was criminally convicted of intent to intimidate because the jury instruction was that cross-burning itself established the intent to intimidate.

The Supreme Court of Virginia overturned Black's conviction.


Is cross-burning constitutionally protected under the First Amendment despite being a KKK practice or is cross-burning a true threat that may be legally restricted?


Cross burning isn't itself evidence of intent to intimidate.

Nevertheless, a state may enact a statute to prohibit cross burning if the act is carried out with the intent to intimidate.


Cross burning as an exercise of political speech is okay.

Cross burning as a true threat intended to cause physical harm isn't allowed.