What Can the Police Arrest You for at a Protest?

Protestors have more rights in Georgia than in some other states, but these rights have limits.

One thing that police cannot arrest protestors for, at least under current law, is filming police officers with a cell phone or other camera. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, whose jurisdiction includes Georgia, has ruled this act is a fundamental right protected by the First Amendment. However, the United States Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on this question, so this protection could disappear. Additionally, as outlined below, police officers could arrest protestors for other offenses.

Regardless of the circumstances of a criminal offense, especially if the infraction carries possible jail time, a defendant always needs an Atlanta criminal defense lawyer. Sometimes, a single attorney can represent several people who were arrested at the same time and who all face basically the same charges. However, in most cases, an individual lawyer is best, if nothing else, to offer legal advice tailored to an individual instead of a group. Furthermore, an individual lawyer does not have divided loyalties. Your attorney represents you, not an organization who usually is not facing any possible criminal punishments and, therefore, may have a different agenda.

Disturbing the Peace

For purposes of this post, disturbing the peace is an umbrella term for several similar offenses, like disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, and harassment. These offenses usually involve tumultuous or violent behavior which makes a reasonable person fear for their safety. It is also illegal to use obscene language in the presence of a minor under 14.

These cases usually hinge on a non-officer’s testimony. Usually, a witness must call the police, lodge a formal complaint, and testify in court. Most complaining witnesses are not willing to go the distance. They falter after step two or maybe even after step one.

Frequently, when police respond to disturbance calls, whether the call involves a protest, officers detain unruly suspects in the back of a police car until they calm down, apologize to the offended person, and promise to go forth and sin no more.

On the off chance a disturbing the peace case makes it to court; an Atlanta criminal defense lawyer can often undermine the witness's credibility. Frequently, these witnesses have an ax to grind, or they make inconsistent statements, often about small details.

Ignoring an officer’s command is basically an offshoot of disturbing the peace. As mentioned, people can film police officers in Georgia. However, they must comply with basic “stay behind this line” commands. Police officers often take it personally when protestors ignore such instructions.

Violent resistance to police officer authority usually means a resisting arrest charge, or even an aggravated assault charge. These matters are quite serious.

Public Intoxication

Many of these same principles apply to public intoxication. Protestors often get a little drunk or arrive a little drunk and get a little carried away. A few minutes in the back of a police car is a very sobering experience.

If the case goes to court, the state must basically prove the defendant was intoxicated, and the defendant was a threat to themself or others. If Michael is intoxicated and crosses the street, he is a danger to himself or others. The material witness is usually a police officer. Basically, police officers are professional witnesses, so it is harder to undermine their testimony.

Reach Out to a Compassionate Gwinnett County Criminal Defense Lawyer

Protestors have rights but not legal immunity. For a free consultation with an experienced Norcross criminal defense lawyer, contact Zimmerman & Associates, Attorneys at Law.