Arrested at a protest? Advice from a Columbus criminal defense attorney
Plus, four potential charges you might face
There’s a reason for that guideline that you don’t talk about politics or religion at a bar. Passions run deep on those subjects, and we’re certainly seeing that in this wild election year.
With Ohio’s battleground state status ensuring we’ll get frequent stops from the presidential candidates this year, those visits will likely bring even more protests like those we’ve already seen in Columbus. (Add in the country’s growing disenfranchisement with a variety of issues, and there’s an even greater possibility of more and more arrests at various protests.)
Your ability to protest is protected free speech, but it’s good to know what to do to stay within your legal rights — and when you’ll need the help of a good criminal defense attorney like those found at Yavitch & Palmer.
What can get you arrested at a protest
The First Amendment of the Constitution generally protects your right to political protest, but it’s not a blanket that covers any and all of your actions at a protest. Here are some ways you can get arrested while involved in a peaceful protest.
- Blocking the sidewalk
- Blocking the street
- Failure to cooperate with lawful orders from law-enforcement personnel
- Trespassing on private or restricted property
You also could be charged with violations of city noise ordinances if you are using a megaphone or other device to amplify your voice.
Obviously emotions run high at a political protest. If you end up in a physical confrontation with someone, you could be facing arrest. Charges will be even more serious if that person is a member of law enforcement.
What to do if you are arrested at a protest
If you are placed under arrest, even if you think the arrest is unjust, don’t resist. You will definitely be facing additional charges if you do.
You do have the right to ask why you are being placed under arrest. Apart from that, you should exercise your right to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately.
It’s important you don’t say (or sign) anything without first getting the advice of an attorney. You have the right to make a phone call — you can contact a criminal defense attorney at Yavitch & Palmer at 614-224-6142 — and the police are not allowed to listen in on that call.
Four charges you could face and what they mean
Here are a few of the common charges that can be levied in the event of a political protest.
1. Criminal trespass
If the protest you were taking place in occurred on private property without the permission of the owner, you may face a trespass charge, a 4th-degree misdemeanor that could bring up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine.
2. Aggravated trespass
The trespassing charge can elevate if there’s an element of either physically harming another person or causing a person to believe you will harm them. Then it becomes a 1st-degree misdemeanor, the most serious charge short of a felony. That can bring up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
3. Resisting arrest
You’ll face this charge in addition to any charges that lead to the arrest in the first place. Resisting arrest is usually a misdemeanor, but it could become a felony
Any physical altercation between protestors, other supporters and member of law enforcement could result in assault charges. These can range from 1st-degree misdemeanors to felony charges, depending on the circumstances. One protester in Arizona recently faced felony charges for an open safety pin on his shorts.
What to do if you were charged at a protest
If you’ve been charged, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney like those at Yavitch & Palmer. We know the fine details of Ohio law and can discuss the specifics of your case. Call us at 614-224-6142 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment at our Downtown Columbus office. Or, better yet, save our number in your phone now so it’s ready should you need it.