Police issue charges to demonstrators participating in protests throughout Michigan.
The rate of assaults by police officers on the African-American population is not improving, and most people in Michigan and the United States have had enough!
Exercising First Amendment Rights Should Not Be Criminalized
Across the United States, people have demonstrated against the injustice of George Floyd’s death and police brutality toward African-Americans. In the days since George Floyd’s final words — “I can’t breathe” — thousands have joined demonstrations in Michigan to protest his death and the deaths of unarmed black men who died before him at the hands of police. Unfortunately, charges from police demonstrations are becoming common and often are misused by police officers to avoid accountability for using their power abusively.
Most demonstrations have been peaceful; however, some groups have turned violent by torching buildings and police cars, smashing through windows of businesses, looting, and clashing with police officers. In other cases, law enforcement officers have been combative, using tear gas, rubber bullets, and other forms of physical force to bully those legitimately exercising their First Amendment rights.
There are numerous examples of arrests made of lawful protesters and minority media figures by police without just cause. For instance, CNN reporter Omar Jimenez was arrested, while another reporter, who is Caucasian, was not arrested. There are videos on the internet of riot gear-clad police officers clearing neighborhood streets and firing pepper-gas-filled bullets at local citizens outside on their private property.
Various felony and misdemeanor laws can be used to charge a demonstrator based on allegations of assaulting, battering, wounding, obstructing, or endangering an officer who is enforcing the law or engaged in law enforcement activities. Officers can use criminal charges to protect themselves when they overstep their lawful authority by making an unwarranted arrest or misusing force or weapons. Unfortunately, a small percentage of law enforcement officers routinely disobey police procedures, improperly use force, and discriminate against people based on race, such as racial profiling. Charging demonstrators with a criminal offense is a tactic officers use to conceal their behavior when they cross the line.
Felony and Misdemeanor Charges Against Those Protesting Police Brutality
Resisting and Obstructing a Police Officer
Assaulting, battering, wounding, obstructing, or endangering a police officer enforcing the law is called Resisting and Obstructing a Police Officer. Resisting a police officer’s orders or interfering in law enforcement activities is a felony carrying a maximum possible prison sentence of 2 years. The maximum penalty can increase to 20 years in prison if serious injury or death occurs. Demonstrators can face Resisting and Obstructing the Police charges from police demonstrations if they are accused of moving barriers, interfering with an arrest, assaulting an officer, blocking an officer from moving freely, or otherwise interfering with a law enforcement officer’s duty.
If a demonstrator is charged with violating state law, the charge will likely be a felony. However, almost all cities, townships, and local municipalities have ordinances that result in misdemeanor charges when those ordinances are violated.
Failure to Obey the Lawful Order of the Police
Under limited circumstances, police can order private citizens to do something or refrain from doing something. For example, a driver must pull over if stopped by a police officer. In other situations, police attempt to conduct an investigation or otherwise engage in law enforcement activities. During an ongoing investigation, there might be a need to order someone not to interfere, leave or not enter an area, back away from an arrest, or obey a law. Failing to obey a lawful order from a police officer is a “second-degree misdemeanor” (a second-degree misdemeanor is treated as a felony for almost all purposes under the law). It is punishable by up to 2 years in prison. The maximum can increase for various reasons, like if the failure to obey results in a traffic accident or an injury. If charges arise from failing to obey a lawful order during a police demonstration, a savvy defense lawyer might be able to craft a winning defense and get the charges dismissed.
Other Charges That Commonly Result from Arrests at Protests and Police Demonstrations
- Malicious Destruction of a Property
- Malicious Destruction of Trees and Shrubs
- Felonious Assault (Assault with a Dangerous Weapon)
- Disorderly Conduct
- Inciting a Riot
- Brandishing a Firearm
- Reckless Discharge of a Firearm
- Retail Fraud
Wrongful Arrests and Police Violence
Most police officers are ethical and law-abiding. However, some are power-hungry, control freaks with violent tendencies. An overly aggressive officer, out-of-control, and also a racist is a recipe for disaster. It is only a matter of time before this type of police officer gets excessively forceful, willfully violates the rights of citizens, and eventually causes an injury or death. When an officer goes rogue during a police demonstration, it is almost certain that they will file charges to protect themselves from misconduct allegations.
With the advent of cell phone video cameras, police violence is often recorded. It is much more difficult for an officer to be held accountable when no such recording exists. When an officer violates someone’s civil rights and hurts someone, the Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. regularly discovers the officer will file bogus criminal charges in an unethical, dishonest attempt to avoid responsibility for their actions.
An aggressive, intelligent, and fearless defense lawyer will do whatever it takes to uncover proof of an officer’s wrongdoing and make sure that, in these cases, all charges are dismissed. In many of these matters, when charges are dismissed, or a defendant is acquitted, it is possible to proceed with a civil lawsuit based on civil rights violations.
Defense Lawyers for Criminal Charges Arising Out of Protests and Demonstrations
The attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have decades of experience successfully representing minorities in cases where corrupt officers lie, commit crimes, and destroy evidence. We will stand up and fight for you no matter the odds and regardless of the “power” of the government. The best defense against a wrongful prosecution is a strong, fearless defense. Our criminal defense lawyers are never intimidated by aggressive police, zealous prosecutors, or tough judges. The government respects the attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. because they know that when we walk through the courtroom door, we never back down and stand for what is right. When you need justice and have no time for false promises and dishonest guarantees, call us for a free consultation. We will find a way to help you.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.