Arrested During a Protest? Know Your Rights!

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Nov 25

Lewis & Laws

Arrested During a Protest? Know Your Rights!

by Lewis & Laws

Arrested During a Protest? Know Your Rights!

In recent months, Seattle has experienced a growing wave of protests. These protests range from Black Lives Matters protests to police reform protests and have gained national attention. Some of these protests have turned violent and police officers have begun making more arrests. 

As protests have escalated across the region, many protestors find themselves arrested and charged with crimes, such as assault, attempted arson, vandalism and more. Are these arrests legal? What are your rights during a protest?

Your Rights as a Protester

If you are attending a protest, it is important to know what rights you hold. The First Amendment protects your rights to assemble peacefully and gives you the freedom to express your views through protest. These rights are strongest in public forums, such as on city streets or parks. You can speak out on public property and march in the streets, as long as you are not blocking access to government buildings or interfering with property. Private property, however, is different. The owner of that property has the right to determine how their property is used.

The police must treat protesters and counter-protesters equally. They are required to keep the peace and keep these groups separate to prevent dangerous and violent escalations. However, they do not always do that.

When you march in the street or on sidewalks, you do not have to have a permit, as long as you do not obstruct traffic. If you do not have a permit, however, police can ask you to move to the side of the street for safety. As a last resort, the police may shut down the protest to keep the peace. If there is a clear and present danger of rioting, or a threat to public safety, the police will ask the crowd to disperse. Once this order is issued, you must disperse in a timely manner. However, police must provide you with a reasonable time and path to do so.

Your Rights if You Are Arrested for Protesting

If you are arrested for protesting, or you believe your rights have been violated, it is important to contact an experienced Seattle criminal defense lawyer immediately. Prior to this, however, be sure to get as much information as you can about the incident, including the officer's badge number, name, and any other identifying information. Photograph injuries or record inappropriate conduct. This can help your case significantly.

If you are arrested, you have the following rights:

  • The right to ask why you are arrested
  • The right to remain silent
  • The right to request an attorney
  • The right to make a local phone call
  • The right to refuse consent of your person or belongings

Police do not have the right to search you or confiscate your photographs or video without a warrant. If they do so, they are violating your rights.

How a Protest Arrest Might Change Your Life

Getting arrested during a protest can have a detrimental effect on your life. For starters, the initial arrest and booking can be a traumatic experience for many people. There may have been police brutality involved or police may have been aggressively fearsome. After your arrest, you may find yourself detained for over 24 hours with an inability to communicate with people, such as your loved ones or employers. Once you are released, you may not receive all of your personal belongings, especially if they are seen as evidence. Your wallet, cell phone, or car keys may even be confiscated.

After your arrest, you may face court dates, excessive fines, and even potential jail time or community service. Having an arrest on your record may jeopardize your future employment opportunities or your reputation in the community. For all these reasons, it is important to fight protest arrests aggressively and make sure you have legal representation throughout the process.

Contact Our Seattle Criminal Defense Lawyers Today

If you are facing criminal charges after being arrested in a protest in Seattle, it is important to know where you can turn for help. Our Seattle criminal defense attorneys can examine your case and help you review your legal options. We can work to keep you out of jail every step of the way and prevent serious charges from harming your future.

The experienced criminal defense lawyers at Lewis & Laws, PLLC, have defended clients in Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, Kirkland, and throughout the state of Washington. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our confidential contact form. We know how to fight serious criminal charges and can protect your future. Call us today!

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