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Can I Be Charged For Peacefully Protesting?

Can I Be Charged For Peacefully Protesting?

When you think of protests that have been attended around the country you may think of George Floyd, the 2017 Women’s March, the Million Man March, or something more local, such as the Proposition 187 Protests in Los Angeles in 1994. These marches ranged from 70,000 to over 25 million people. All of these protests resulted in several hundred to several thousand arrests and charges included disorderly conduct. Most recently, and if you are a fan of the television series Yellowstone, you may recall a number of people protesting for what they believed was the greater cause whether it was environmental or for animal rights. In the process of protesting; however, many were arrested and charged. If they were peaceful protests, why?

It is important to know that there are specific types of activity that may qualify for disorderly conduct. It is also important to remember that there are differences in laws that define disorderly conduct specific to a range of behaviors. Here are the general types of activities:

  1. Fighting - Many states, like California, will charge and prosecute fighting, brawling, or even inciting a dangerous public disturbance as disorderly conduct. 
  2. Protests - Engaging in peaceful protests is a constitutionally protected right, engaging in disruptive protests is not. For example, a protest may be peaceful where no physical harm is inflicted; however, if the group is blocking traffic (a thoroughfare), that is not a protected right.
  3. Interfering with assemblies - If you were to disrupt a city council meeting, religious ceremony, etc., this may be considered disorderly conduct.
  4. Public misconduct - If you engage in what is considered private conduct such as public urination, masturbation, or intoxication, this may be considered disorderly conduct if done in a public place.
  5. Police involvement - A greater portion of disorderly conduct charges are from police involvement. This may be as simple as arguing with police while engaging in threatening conduct such as the use of physical contact. If you fail to comply with a police order in a public setting, this may be considered disorderly conduct.

How to Defend a Charge Related to Protesting?

How may you contest a disorderly conduct charge if in the spirit of a peaceful protest? First, how were you identified? Were you present or a bystander? Second, understand that disorderly conduct may appear or seem like a minor charge, but serious consequences may follow a charge and/or conviction. There are; however, options that you have when disputing a disorderly conduct charge such as, but not limited to: probation, a fine, community service, or plead to a lesser included offense. It is important to remember that such charges are not always a “slam dunk” for prosecutors and disorderly conduct can be defended.

Regardless of the classification of the offense, it is important that you seek the assistance of competent legal counsel to help you best understand your legal defense while identifying an outcome that best minimizes your risk. We here at the H Law group patiently await your call.

H Law Group Online

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