When people participate in protests, there is a risk of getting arrested. This can happen even if a person does nothing wrong. Still, a person who is exercising their Constitutional right to free expression and pubic assembly should not be punished with a criminal conviction. Those who fear they might be (or have been) arrested during a protest should know the following.
When Can A Protest Be Restricted
Many arrests occur when a protest or protesters violate certain restrictions. While everyone has the right to public assembly, there are reasonable restrictions that government bodies and police can put in place. This includes:
- Limiting the protest to certain times and places.
- Rules regarding the use of sound amplification equipment.
- Requiring advanced notice of the demonstration and a permit.
A person who violates reasonable time, place, and other restrictions—for example, by blocking traffic on a roadway not cordoned off by police for demonstration purposes—can be ticketed or arrested.
What to Do When Being Arrested at a Protest
The most important thing to do when it seems arrest is imminent is to remain calm. It is normal for a person to panic, flee, resist, or yell, but these things only make matters worse. In addition to doing your best to stay calm, be sure to do the following:
- Ask what law you violated. If the officer can’t or won’t say, ask clearly if you are free to leave.
- Do not answer questions.
- If the officer is using force—justifiably or otherwise—do no resist. This can result in being charged with Resisting Arrest, in addition to any other charges.
- Do not consent to a search of your person or belongings.
- Do not give DNA samples.
- Do not unlock your phone for police.
- Likewise, do not delete any photos or videos taken during the protest—these may be evidence needed to prove one’s innocence (and cops know that).
- If possible, get the name and badge number of the arresting officer(s).
- Say as little as possible. Even innocent people can end up being charged because they said the wrong thing.
- Ask to speak with an attorney.
What Can I Be Charged with At a Protest?
A person can be charged with any number of offenses as a result of participation in a public demonstration. Among the more common include:
- Disorderly Conduct. This alleges that the person engaged in unsafe or disruptive behavior, such as fighting, threatening people, or using loud and offensive language.
- Criminal Mischief. This vaguely named offense includes things such as vandalism, graffiti, or damaging property.
- Resisting Arrest. Even if a person does not believe they are being lawfully arrested, any attempt to resist can result in being charged with this.
- Assault. If things get out of hand and people begin pushing, throwing things, or worse, police could charge people with assault.
- Weapons Possession. You may be surprised to learn what is considered an unlawful weapon.
- Trespassing. A person who enters private property during part of the demonstration—intentionally or otherwise—may be charged with trespassing.
What to Do After Being Arrested
The above advice is great for those who have not yet been arrested but what should those who have already been arrested and charged do? The first thing you should do is call loved ones to let them know you are OK.
The second is to contact an attorney. If you have been charged with a crime, you will need the help of an attorney to help beat the charges or get them reduced to less serious offenses.
Even if you have not been charged with a crime, it is wise to contact an attorney. Your rights may have been violated, or you may have suffered an injury at the hands of police (or both). An attorney can advise if there is any possible recourse. If you or someone you love has been charged with an offense after participating in a protest or other public demonstration, contact the attorneys at Rosenblum Law. Our skilled defense attorneys have helped many people in similar situations. Call 888-434-0406 or email Rosenblum Law today for a free consultation about your case.