Protesting or Disorderly Conduct?

There is no question that our country is in a highly-emotional state right now. There is plenty to protest about and, it seems, everyone has a soapbox to stand on. The great thing about the United States is that there is free speech and, no matter what your views are, you are granted the right to yell your opinion as loud as you want.

However, there is a thin line between protesting and disorderly conduct. While protesting is an exercise of your freedom of speech, disorderly conduct is a criminal act and comes with some hefty consequences.

Here are some tips for protesting legally and avoiding a criminal charge of disorderly conduct:

  • In 2011, a type of protest called “occupy protests” became popularized. Essentially, an occupy protest is when a group of people state a sit-in on public property. However, just because it is public property does not mean that the action is totally legal. If your sit-in is on private property, you could be arrested for trespassing. Or, because a sit-in interferes with the natural flow of the day, you and members of your group could be interested for pedestrian interference. Finally, if law enforcement warns you and your group to move or face being arrested but, you refuse, you could be arrested and charged with disorderly conduct
  • If the protest becomes violent and protestors do anything that is threatening or they actually try to harm another person, people will begin to be arrested and charged with assault. As long as a protest remains calm and peaceful, mostly of the time police will allow it to continue
  • If your protest is violating a city noise ordinance, time restriction, or you have assembled without a permit the police may choose to cite your group for disturbing the peace
  • If your group refuses to disperse when asked by law enforcement, you should know that they might use tear gas to break up the gathering. The police can basically use this method any time they feel a reasonable fear of danger from a group of protesters that are not following orders to vacate
  • The only time that the police can open fire on a crowd of protesters is when an officer or another person has been harmed or in imminent danger. This situation is more probable in a setting of a prison riot.

Protesting is a common way to express your opinion and feel empowered. However, it can also be an act that puts you at risk for being arrested and charged with a criminal act. Make sure that you are following these tips for how to protest without putting yourself at risk for being charged with a crime.

If you have been arrested for disorderly conduct in Fort Lauderdale or surrounding Florida areas contact us for a free case evaluation. Attorney Jeffrey N. Ivashuk has been a Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale for almost 25 years! We can help.

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