It is no secret that the majority of the voting population in this country did not cast their vote for Donald Trump as President in November 2016. Nevertheless, Trump was elected and has now been sworn in as the nation’s 45th President. During the inauguration, thousands took to the streets in protest, and the images on social media and the news outlets included those of police force being used in an attempt to keep the peace. But these events have many wondering what their rights are to a peaceful protest, and why those that participated on January 20, 2017 were arrested for what many consider to be an inalienable right.
Three observations on the arrests made inauguration day are:
- Not every arrest made was a legal arrest: there is at least one report of journalists and innocent bystanders being wrongfully arrested, but these people had not participated in the protests or committed any unlawful act.
- Many of the arrests were made for the destruction of property, which is certainly not a peaceful way to engage in a protest. In fact, the destruction of property in question may even be a felony and those that participated, if convicted, could face a lengthy jail term as part of their sentence.
- The financial penalty is also quite high, for those that are convicted of engaging in criminal behavior during the protests.
With these possible punishments in store, it will be vital for any citizen arrested and charged with a crime during the protests to secure competent legal representation. As we have all heard, protesting is a right granted to each of us by the Constitution. The issue becomes one of what constitutes a peaceful assembly, as opposed to one where violence breaks out and the property of others is destroyed. On the one had you have the right to assemble without causing a disruption, and on the other hand you have what some believe to be a riot. It will be interesting to see what becomes of the Inauguration Day protesters, and just what type of consequences they face. It will also be interesting to see whether those arrested are able to prove their protest was peaceful, and what damages they may be entitled to for an unwarranted arrest if they are successful in establishing their position.
If you have questions about criminal defense, call our office for answers. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast. Your first visit is a free initial consultation.