What to Do if You Are Arrested for Protesting

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Samuel E. Bassett with Minton, Bassett, Flores and Carsey.

What to Do if You Are Arrested for Protesting
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First, it’s important to know that under the First Amendment, citizens are allowed to gather together and express their views through protest. However, the government is also allowed to apply some specific restrictions to protests.

If you feel that your rights have been violated, it’s important to write down everything that happened exactly as you remember it. This could later help a legal team piece together what happened and prove if a violation of protesters’ rights occurred. Criminal defense attorneys are well-versed in your rights and will be able to identify if a violation occurred and will have the experience and resources necessary to fight an unjust charge.

If approached by police while protesting, it’s important to do the following:

  • Remain calm and make sure your hands stay visible
  • Be cooperative. Do not argue with or obstruct the police
  • Point out that the First Amendment protects you in this situation as you are not disrupting anyone’s actions
  • Ask if you are free to leave. If they reply that you are free to leave, do so calmly.

If arrested by police while protesting, you have the right to do the following:

  • Remain silent.
  • Ask for a lawyer.
  • Refuse to agree to or sign anything without a lawyer present.
  • Make a phone call. It should be noted that if you are calling your lawyer, the police are not allowed to listen to your call.
  • Refuse a search of your belongings. However, police do have the right to pat down your clothing after an arrest to ensure that you are not concealing a weapon.
  • Protect photographs, videos, and any other data on your person. The police are not allowed to view this information without a warrant and are never allowed to delete any of it.

It’s important to remain calm and do not resist arrest, even if you feel the situation is unjust. Resisting arrest could actually result in additional charges. It’s also important to be careful of what you say and refrain from speaking at all during your arrest. Anything you say in an arrest can be used against you in a court of law.

Here are some tips to follow if you feel that your rights have been violated:

  • Write down everything you can remember from the interaction.
  • Write down the officers’ badge and patrol car number if possible.
  • Get the contact information of any witnesses to the violation.
    Photograph any injuries or damaged property.
  • Seek medical attention for any injuries to ensure that an official record exists documenting when and how the injuries occurred, in addition to their severity.
  • Contact a criminal defense lawyer and get their guidance. They might recommend filing a complaint with the internal affairs division or civilian complaint board within the officer’s agency.

A criminal defense attorney can help protect you after being arrested in a protest.

It’s important to contact a criminal defense attorney if you are arrested during a protest. The only way to challenge police misconduct is with the help of a lawyer. The laws surrounding police treatment of protesters are complex and varied, and can be difficult to prove without the help of an experienced professional.

However, it is important to remember that everyone has the right to legal counsel during questioning. Even if you feel certain that you haven’t done anything wrong, it is still highly recommended to take advantage of this right. Some people refrain from calling a lawyer to their aid under the worry that it will make them look guilty; this should not be a concern. A criminal defense attorney can prevent further injustice from occurring and protect you from any potential rights violations during or after your arrest.

If you or a loved one were arrested for protesting, or think your rights might have been violated during protesting, seek legal counsel to learn what a criminal defense attorney can do for you.

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