The defense attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have experience and a successful track record defending wrongfully or overly charged clients due to controversial protests and demonstrations.

Law Enforcement’s Weaponization of Criminal Charges

Defending Student Protestors: How LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. Can Help You

In today’s climate, student involvement in peaceful protests and demonstrations is increasingly common. However, the line between lawful protest and actions that may lead to criminal charges can sometimes blur. At LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., we are committed to defending protestors and demonstrators facing charges related to participating in such events.

It is crucial to recognize the difference between peaceful, legal protesting and behavior that may be deemed disorderly or destructive. Peaceful protests and demonstrations are characterized by non-violent actions and are protected under the First Amendment. However, when demonstrations obstruct public ways, destroy property, or create a substantial risk of causing public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, they can cross the legal boundary into disorderly conduct or other criminal charges.

In Michigan, common charges against protestors might include the following:

  • disorderly conduct,
  • disturbing the peace,
  • trespassing, rioting, or
  • terrorism.

The exact charge depends on the nature of the incident. Each of these charges encompasses a variety of behaviors, from causing a public disturbance to engaging in violence or vandalism. All crimes in Michigan are punishable by jail, prison, probation, and more. Anyone facing such allegations should take the charges seriously and retain experienced defense counsel immediately.

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The criminal defense attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. understand the nuances of these charges and employ various defenses depending on each case’s circumstances. For students who were peacefully protesting or demonstrating and are wrongfully accused, defenses might focus on the lack of intent to commit a crime or showing that the actions fell within their rights to free speech and assembly.

For those who may have stepped beyond legal boundaries, our defense strategies could involve demonstrating a lack of intent to cause harm or disruption or that any actions taken were out of character and an impulsive mistake. In cases where charges cannot be entirely dismissed, our skilled attorneys work tirelessly to mitigate the consequences through highly effective plea bargaining and sentence advocacy.

The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA), a unique legislative provision in Michigan, offers young individuals aged 17 through 25 a second chance when charged with certain crimes, potentially including those related to protests and demonstrations. Under HYTA, eligible youths can plead guilty to a criminal charge, but the conviction is not public. Instead, if the individual successfully completes the probation terms set by the court, the charges can be dismissed, and the record remains sealed. HYTA prevents a single mistake from having lifelong consequences, such as impacting future employment opportunities or educational prospects.

The process begins when the young person and their attorney decide to apply for HYTA status during court proceedings. If the judge agrees to grant HYTA, they will place the youth on probation and specify specific conditions the defendant must meet before the charges are dismissed. These conditions might include community service, restitution, staying arrest-free, and other rehabilitative measures like counseling or educational programs.

The primary benefit of being granted HYTA status is that it allows the individual to avoid a criminal record. For young protesters, this can mean the difference between facing future barriers and having the opportunity to move forward without the burden of past mistakes. Advocating for HYTA can be vital when a skilled defense attorney defends youthful protesters and demonstrators.

A skilled defense attorney is crucial in securing HYTA for a client. They can provide essential guidance on whether the individual’s charges qualify for HYTA, negotiate with prosecutors, and advocate for the client in court, emphasizing factors like the individual’s background, the nature of the demonstration or protest, and the circumstances leading to the arrest. Defense attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. are experienced in navigating the complexities of HYTA and can effectively argue for its application in suitable cases.

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When Protests Encounter Police Action

There are instances where police intervention in protests can escalate to arrests, sometimes based on misunderstandings or overzealous law enforcement actions. Police officers sometimes use charges like disorderly conduct to legitimize questionable police actions. Our experienced attorneys examine the validity of such charges and advocate for our clients’ rights, challenging any improper or unconstitutional conduct by law enforcement. When law enforcement officers violate our client’s rights, we can utilize a Motion to Suppress evidence as an effective tool to seek dismissal or reduction of charges when defending protestors and demonstrators.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Defending Protestors and Demonstrators

In Michigan, as in the rest of the United States, protestors are protected under the First Amendment, which guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition the government. Peaceful protesting is a fundamental right, but it’s important to note that the right does not extend to illegal actions, such as trespassing on private property, obstructing public pathways, or inciting violence. LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. can help you understand the specific legal boundaries of protesting and ensure that your rights are protected.

Can I be arrested for participating in a peaceful protest?

While the right to peacefully protest is protected, arrests can still occur if the protest is deemed to obstruct public order or if it transitions from peaceful to disruptive. For example, blocking traffic without a permit or refusing to disperse after lawful orders could lead to arrest. Suppose you are arrested during what you believe was peaceful activity. In that case, having skilled, experienced legal representation is crucial to argue the legality of your actions and advocate for your rights.

What should I do if I’m charged with disorderly conduct during a protest?

Contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney is essential if you or a loved one is charged with disorderly conduct. LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. specializes in defending such cases by examining all aspects of the charge, from the circumstances leading to your arrest to the conduct of law enforcement. The firm can challenge the prosecution’s evidence, negotiate for reduced charges, or, if necessary, defend you at trial to seek a dismissal of the charges.

How can a lawyer help if I’m accused of rioting or vandalism during a protest?

Accusations of rioting or vandalism are serious and carry significant penalties. A lawyer from LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. can help by crafting a defense strategy that may include proving you were wrongfully identified, did not engage in the alleged actions, or acted under duress. If evidence is lacking or improperly obtained, your lawyer can move to have the charges reduced or dismissed. Additionally, they can negotiate plea deals where appropriate, focusing on minimizing potential penalties.

What defenses are available for protestors wrongfully charged with a crime in Michigan?

Defenses for wrongfully charged protestors can vary widely but often include demonstrating a lack of intent, wrongful identification, exercising of lawful rights without crossing into illegal activity, and police misconduct. LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. employs a thorough approach, from investigating the full context of the incident to challenging the evidence presented. They ensure your side of the story is heard and rigorously defended, leveraging their deep knowledge of constitutional rights and state laws.

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How We Can Help Those Facing Criminal Charges Stemming from Protests and Demonstrations

LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. ensures students’ voices are heard and protected. Whether providing legal counsel when charges are first made, representing clients in court, or negotiating with prosecutors, our goal is to achieve the best possible outcome for our clients. Our team’s deep understanding of state laws and constitutional rights positions us uniquely to defend protestors and demonstrators against felony and misdemeanor criminal charges.

If you or someone you know is facing legal challenges related to participating in a protest or demonstration, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our experienced defense lawyers are ready to help you navigate the complexities of your case and work toward a favorable resolution. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please visit our website or contact our office directly for a free consultation. Protecting your rights and your future is our top priority.

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.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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