The right to peacefully gather and express your concerns in a public forum is enshrined in the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Indeed, the right to protest is a fundamental aspect of a functioning democracy, along with freedom of the press, religion and expression in general. In reality – especially if protests involve civil disobedience, violence, property damage or other illegal behavior – there are scenarios in which you could be arrested.
If you plan to take part in a protest, whether spontaneously or planned in advance, you should prepare for the possibility of being arrested. We answer questions you may have about what to do if you or a loved one is arrested during the protest, including general arrest procedures, your rights, and best practices.
Why should I be arrested for a protest? Isn't it my right to protest?
The authorities can restrict the time, place and type of protest. For example, protests typically cannot be held during a forced curfew, privately, or in a manner that endangers others. In general, the police are responsible for reconciling your right to protest with your responsibility to maintain peace. Obtaining approval before a planned protest helps make everything go smoothly. This is usually not mandatory, although some states require permits that would block the access to a street if the demonstration.
With that in mind, you could be arrested if you protest at a specific time or place, or in a manner that threatens public security or violates the law, an official curfew, or any other legitimate restriction. Some protests knowingly violate certain restrictions, e.g. B. blocking access to a construction site or forming a human chain around a beloved tree. These are known as civil disobedience and participants generally expect to be arrested.
You could also be arrested for association, e.g. B. due to a protest in which only one or a few participants violate the law, or due to a false identity. However, demonstrators can also be arrested if they fully comply with the law (or if violence or vandalism is committed by external provocateurs) to be released without charge later. Regardless of the circumstances, it is important to know your rights and understand how you can protest legally and safely.
What can I do in advance to prepare for the possibility of being arrested during a protest?
There are a few things you can do before you take part in a protest to prepare for a possible arrest, including the following:
- Share the time and place of the protest with a trusted family member, friend, or neighbor
- Remember or write down the phone number (preferably on your arm, in permanent ink) of a lawyer, law enforcement agency, or other contact who may be able to help you with your arrest
- Write your name and number on any valuable items you want to return if they are confiscated
- Make sure you have a government-issued ID (such as your driver's license) with you so that you can be released from prison more quickly
- Prepare an emergency plan for underage children, pets, or other tasks if you are unable to take care of them due to arrest
How do I know if I'm detained or if I can go?
If you are approached or stopped by the police, it is in your interest to remain calm. In many states, the police are allowed to ask for your name, but you don't have to answer questions about your immigration status, where you live, or where you live. If you want to exercise your right to remain silent, you have to tell the officials aloud. However, you can also ask them which crime you are accused of. After talking to you, ask if you are free. If so, you can rejoin the protest or go your own way.
While the police may not search you without a valid warrant, they can pat you (through your clothes) if you have reason to believe that you are carrying a gun. If they say that you are not free to arrest you again, keep calm and think about your safety. Remember that the right to remain silent can be to your advantage. Resisting arrest (even if you consider it illegal) can lead to unsafe results and is a crime in many places.
If you are illegally detained (i.e. you have arrested you for no probable reason), you can file a police misconduct complaint or contact a civil rights organization later.
What happens if I am arrested?
If the police arrest you, they can read your Miranda rights to you (the right to a lawyer, the right to remain silent, etc.), but they do not need to do so immediately. It is important to understand that anything you say while in detention can only be used against you after you have read your rights.
When you are arrested, the officer handcuffs you or a cable tie and searches you immediately. Then they will probably put you in a patrol car or put you in a larger vehicle with other detainees. Once you are taken to a local prison, you will be processed (identified, fingerprinted, photographed and quoted or quoted). The quote indicates the date on which you are expected to appear in court.
You should expect to be in police custody for at least a few hours, but can be held in prison overnight or even over the weekend (before bail is fixed). However, you can also be released at your own discretion – which means that you have signed a promise to appear at your trial – or you can be released without charge.
I have reason to believe that a family member or loved one was arrested during a protest, but I haven't heard from them and I don't know where they are. What can I do?
First, you should contact your local (and state) police and sheriff department and ask if they are in custody. Some may offer this information on their website. Depending on which authority made the arrest, they can be held in a neighboring jurisdiction. There are also several prisoner finders available online that collect nationwide information on arrests.
Once you've contacted your detained loved one, you want to make sure they are legally represented. If you have not done so yourself, you should contact a lawyer to explain the situation and give them the name of the prison or police station where your relative is located. Keep in mind that you may have already been assigned a public defender.
If your loved one needs medication while in detention, but the prison staff refuses the inmate's request, you should contact your doctor. You should also send your request in writing to the prison staff, including the diagnosis, the type and dosage of the medication, the doctor's contact information, and your contact information.
How does the deposit work?
The deposit is essentially used as insurance for your appearance in court to be released from prison. If a deposit has been set, you can ask a friend or lawyer to deposit a deposit for you. Since the deposit is usually much higher than those arrested, you can secure a deposit instead of paying the full amount.
This includes paying a percentage of the deposit (typically 10 percent) to the debtor, who then secures the full amount of the deposit in exchange for yours in the form of collateral (e.g. the defendant's car or mortgage or that of a family member) Release. After the conditions of the bond have been fulfilled (will appear in court at the planned time and date), the bondholder will be released from the conditions of the bond. The 10 percent cash payment is your fee.
If you fail to meet the conditions of the deposit, the court will request payment of the remaining 90 percent of the deposit. The Bail Bondsman sells the collateral provided for it.
If you or your family cannot afford a bail, numerous bail funds have been set up to support protesters who are arrested.
What should I do (or not do) after being arrested in prison?
You may be tempted to speak to other inmates or officials while waiting for bail or to meet with your lawyer, but it is in your best interest to exercise your right to remain silent. You also want to make sure that you have legal representation. Note that the police may not hear your call from a lawyer. If you have not yet had the opportunity to do so, clearly state your intention to speak to a lawyer.
You may be stuck there for several hours, so this is also a good time to review the events leading up to your arrest and to examine evidence that could support your position. For example, has the police used excessive force and do you have witnesses? If they scattered the crowd for legitimate reasons, were you given a reasonable opportunity to leave the place of protest?
Will I be charged and brought to justice?
It depends on whether. The majority of the protesters arrested are released for crimes (e.g. disturbance of peace or traffic disruption) and are not charged. This is the legal process where you are officially charged and submitting your request. If a trial date is set for your indictment (usually within a day or so after the arrest) and you make a declaration of "not guilty," your trial will start in a few weeks or even months.
What should I do after my release?
Here, too, it really depends on your situation. If you have reason to believe that the police have acted illegally, e.g. For example, if you have used excessive force, have provided evidence, or have canceled a peaceful protest under false pretenses, you should report this to your lawyer and make an official complaint to the appropriate police agency.
You should also contact potential witnesses who can confirm your story and collect relevant photographic or physical evidence to support your case. For example, take photos of injuries you have suffered from the police as soon as possible. If the injuries are severe, be sure to see a doctor. This can also help you document suspected abuses that could strengthen your case.
Know your rights if you are arrested during a protest
Protests are as American as baseball and apple pie, but police encounters during such events can still be stressful and confusing. Regardless of your actions (or inaction) before an arrest, you have certain rights. If you have any questions or concerns, or need additional information about your legal rights as a protester, contact a lawyer.
This article contains general legal information and no legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for a lawyer or a law firm. The law is complex and changes frequently. For legal advice, please contact a lawyer.