What Happens If You Drop the American Flag or It Touches the Ground?

Millions of Americans proudly display the American flag in front of their home or business. It’s typically displayed on a flagpole where it’s at least several feet off the ground. At this height, the American flag can freely blow in the wind. Whether you currently display the American flag in front of your home or business, or if you’re planning to in the near future, you might be wondering what happens if you accidentally drop it on the ground.

Don’t Let It Touch the Ground!

According to the U.S. Flag Code, the American flag should never touch the ground or anything else below it. This federal law states: “The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.” Why doesn’t the U.S. Flag Code allow the American flag to touch the ground?

The reason for this provision is to respect the American flag and everything for which it stands, while also protecting the American flag from damage. If the American flag hangs so low on a flagpole that it touches the ground, it will likely accumulate dirt. And if it continues to touch the ground, it may sustain more severe damage in the form of torn fabric. By keeping your American flag off the ground, you can avoid problems such as these.

Do I Need to Retire an American Flag That Touches the Ground?

While you should strive to keep your American flag in the air at all times, you don’t have to necessarily destroy or retire your American flag if it touches the ground. The only time when you should destroy or retire an American flag is when it’s severely soiled or damaged to the point where it’s no longer fitting to display. If your American flag touches the ground, pick it up and reattach it to the flagpole. Just remember to secure it in place so that it doesn’t fall or otherwise touch the ground again.

How High Should I Display the American Flag?

The U.S. Flag Code only states that the American flag should never touch the ground or anything else below it. This federal law does not specify the height at which the American flag should be flown. With that said, it’s generally a good idea to fly the American flag at least 3 to 5 feet off the ground. Assuming you use a heavy-duty and durable flagpole, it shouldn’t touch the ground — even during severe rain and bad weather.

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