We are living in a new age of American protests. From Women’s Marches, Black Lives Matter, ANTIFA, and DAPL pipeline resistance movements, to Unite the Right, various “Alt. right” or white supremacist groups, and anti-abortion groups, there are protests occurring nearly every week in every state. The right to protest is protected in the First Amendment of the Constitution, and that right is under attack by dozens of anti-protest laws. Many of these bills will never be turned into law, but some will. If you were arrested at a protest for any reason, regardless of what you were protesting, you deserve to be represented by an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Pennsylvania Senate Bill 754
Senate Bill 754 would place a protest’s public safety bill for law enforcement on the shoulders of those arrested for misdemeanors or felonies during protests, as reported by Lancaster Online. Not only would Senate Bill 754 force an individual to pay for the costs associated with their own actions, but for the actions of others. This would open up nearly everyone who participates at a protest to a drastic level of liability. The criminal justice system already imposes large fines and restitution for those charged with certain offenses. Senate Bill 754 could bring crippling financial woes to those charged with small offenses such as refusing to disperse. This bill was created in response to Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protesters.
Other Strict Anti-Protest Laws Harming the First Amendment Across the Country
- In Oklahoma, a bill would increase penalties for interfering with pipeline projects or other “critical infrastructure.” The law imposes a maximum fine of $100,000 and 10 years in prison on violators, and up to a $1 million fine for “conspirator” organizations, according to The Washington Post.
- Pennsylvania, like dozens of other states, has a similar bill that, if it becomes law, would increase the penalties for protests around “critical infrastructure” such as pipelines, according to the International Center for Not For Profit Law. Senate Bill 654 would make it a second degree felony to “trespass” by participating in these protests.
- Ohio has a similar bill pending, and another for those conceal their identity at protests, causing them to be charged with a first degree misdemeanor.
- New Jersey has a bill pending that would expand the definition of a riot to include a group of four or more people that causes property damage. The bill would impose three to five years in prison for those convicted.
Reach Out to a Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyer
Common protest arrests include obstructing a highway or refusing to disperse, inciting a riot, or disorderly conduct. Mass arrests are becoming increasingly common, with dozens or hundreds of peacefully protesting people arrested at large rallies. If you were arrested or are the victim of police brutality, you need to speak with the Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers of van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin today.