PASADENA, Calif. -- A federal appeals court panel in California says people have a right to lie about receiving military medals.

The Tuesday ruling involves the case of Xavier Alvarez, who falsely claimed in 2007 to have won a Congressional Medal of Honor. He was charged with violating the federal Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to falsely claim to have won a military medal.

Alvarez challenged the law on appeal as a violation of his free-speech rights.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with him in a 2-1 decision. The majority said there's no evidence that such lies harm anybody, and there's no compelling reason for the government to ban such lies.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles is deciding whether to appeal the ruling.