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New York Protesting Arrest Attorney

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People arrested during a protest in New York often grapple with concerns about potential legal repercussions. The nature of the charges, the legal process, and the possibility of facing a trial or a criminal record can weigh heavy on anyone’s mind. But you don’t have to face this alone.

At The Law Offices of Mehdi Essmidi P.L.L.C., we have a successful track record of handling New York protest arrests. Led by former New York City Prosecutor Mehdi Essmidi, our firm is uniquely positioned to anticipate and counter the strategies prosecutors use against you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Understanding New York Protesting Arrests

Protests are a fundamental right protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution. However, when New York City police believe that laws have been broken during a protest, arrests can happen. The charges from these arrests range from minor infractions to serious felonies, depending on the circumstances.

New York City police have broad discretion in making arrests during protests. Often, charges are brought based on allegations of disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly, resisting arrest, or more serious offenses such as rioting or inciting a riot. 

However, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, and they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the alleged crime. This is where having an experienced criminal defense attorney can give your case the edge you are looking for. 

Challenges and Limitations of New York Police Arrests

Encounters between civilians and law enforcement during protests often end up in misunderstandings. It’s not uncommon for innocent bystanders or peaceful protesters to be swept up in mass arrests. Furthermore, police officers must adhere to strict procedures during an arrest, given that protesting is a civil right.

Protesting Related Charges

Here are some of the most common protesting-related crimes New York City police might charge you with:

§ 195.05. Obstructing Governmental Administration in the Second-Degree

A person is guilty of obstructing governmental administration when they intentionally try to prevent law enforcement or public servants from performing an official function through intimidation, physical force, or interference.

§ 215.50. Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree

Criminal contempt refers to behavior that disrespects or disobeys the authority or dignity of a court. Criminal contempt is characterized by actions considered harmful to the administration of justice.

Under New York Penal Law, it is a class A misdemeanor to protest within two hundred feet of a courthouse, calling aloud, shouting, and holding signs concerning:

  • A trial held in this courthouse
  • The character of the court or jury engaged in such a trial
  • Making demands of such court or jury in connection with a trial

§ 240.05. Riot in the Second Degree

A person is guilty of riot in the second degree when, with four or more people, they engage in tumultuous and violent conduct and intentionally or recklessly cause or create a risk of causing public alarm.

§ 240.06. Riot in the First Degree

A person is guilty of riot in the first degree when, with ten or more people, they engage in tumultuous and violent conduct and intentionally or recklessly cause or create a risk of causing public alarm.

If, as a result of such conduct, a person other than one of the participants suffers physical injury or substantial property damage, charges can escalate to a class E felony.

§ 240.08. Inciting to Riot

A person is guilty of inciting a riot when they urge ten or more people to engage in tumultuous and violent conduct likely to create public alarm.

§ 240.10. Unlawful Assembly

A person is guilty of this crime when they assemble four or more people to engage or prepare to engage in tumultuous and violent conduct likely to cause public alarm.

§ 240.20. Disorderly Conduct

A person is guilty of disorderly conduct when, with intent to cause public inconvenience, they:

  • Engage in fighting, violent, tumultuous, or threatening behavior.
  • Make unreasonable noise.
  • Use abusive or obscene language or make obscene gestures in public places.
  • Disturb any lawful assembly or meeting.
  • Obstruct vehicular or pedestrian traffic.
  • Gather with others in a public place and refuse to comply with a police order to disperse.
  • Create a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose.

§ 205.30. Resisting Arrest

A person is guilty of resisting arrest in New York when they intentionally prevent a police officer or peace officer from completing an arrest.

Examples of Protesting-Related Arrests in New York City

  • Protesting with unreasonable noise next to a courthouse: A person using a megaphone to chant loudly outside a courthouse during court hours.
  • Kicking a police car in frustration: In an attempt to express their anger, a protester kicks the tire of a police car, potentially facing charges of damaging government property or disorderly conduct.
  • Occupying a government building overnight: Protesters decide to occupy a government building, refusing to leave after closing hours, potentially facing charges for trespassing.
  • Blocking a highway during a march: A group of protesters blocks a major highway, potentially leading to charges for obstructing traffic.
  • Refusing to disperse after a police order: During a protest, if the police declare it an unlawful assembly and order dispersal, but some individuals refuse to leave, they could be charged.
  • Locking arms in front of a business entrance: Protesters lock arms, blocking the entrance to a business they are protesting against, potentially leading to charges for obstructing business operations or trespassing.
  • Throwing objects at police officers: If a protester throws bottles at police officers, they could be charged with assault or resisting arrest.
  • Protesting outside a residential area late at night: Holding a loud protest in a residential area late at night could lead to charges for disturbing the peace or noise violations.
  • Climbing on a public monument: Climbing on a public monument or structure during a protest could lead to charges for endangering public safety or vandalism.

Consequences of a Conviction

Protesters can face fines, probation, community service, and jail time. The severity of charges depends on the specific actions taken during the protest. 

For instance, individuals who engage in vandalism or property damage during a protest may face more serious charges related to property destruction. Below is the classification of protesting-related charges under the New York Penal Code:

  • Obstructing governmental administration is classified as a class A misdemeanor.
  • Criminal contempt in the second degree is classified as a class A misdemeanor.
  • Resisting arrest is classified as a class A misdemeanor.
  • Unlawful assembly is classified as a class B misdemeanor.
  • Inciting a riot is classified as a class A misdemeanor.
  • Riot in the second degree is classified as a class A misdemeanor.
  • Riot in the first degree is classified as a class E felony.

Common Defenses

An experienced criminal defense attorney can employ several defense strategies. Here are a few potential defenses:

First Amendment Rights: The First Amendment protects your right to free speech, which includes the right to protest. This could be a strong defense if your actions were protected under the First Amendment.

Mistaken Identity: In the chaos of a protest, it’s not uncommon for law enforcement to arrest the wrong person. If it can be proven that you were not the person who committed the alleged crime, this could lead to your charges being dropped.

Lack of Evidence: The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the alleged crime. If they cannot provide sufficient evidence, your charges may be dismissed.

Unlawful Arrest: Law enforcement must follow specific procedures when making an arrest. If these routines were not followed, your arrest may be deemed unlawful, and charges could be dropped.

What to Do If You’re Arrested During a Protest

Being arrested during a protest can be a frightening experience. You may not know what to do or what your rights are. Here are some crucial steps to follow if you find yourself in this situation:

  • Always use the right to remain silent. It will benefit you because law enforcement can use a defendant’s words against them.
  • Always request an attorney and only answer questions with legal representation. 
  • If an officer tries to arrest you, resisting can escalate the level of criminal charges, and if an officer is injured while someone is resisting, felony charges could be filed. 

Contact us for a Free Consultation

Facing criminal charges can create a lot of pressure. But remember, you don’t have to face this alone. We’re here to help.

At The Law Offices of Mehdi Essmidi P.L.L.C., we’re committed to fighting for your rights and guiding you through every step of the legal process. Contact us today for a free consultation.