What to Do If You Get Arrested at a Protest
As of this writing, protests are ongoing in the nation. If you choose to participate in one you need to know you rights.
Note that you should always try to follow the law while at a protest. For example, many protesters make the mistake of blocking traffic or stepping onto private property where their rights aren’t as strong.
You should try to remain on public sidewalks if you can, or in a public park, or in some other public location. Avoid committing any crime. Cross at crosswalks and with the lights as you normally would.
Of course, following the law doesn’t always help until you have your day in court, especially right now. Indiscriminate arrests can and do happen.
During the Arrest Itself
Remain calm and don’t resist arrest, but demand a reason for being apprehended. Ideally you won’t have actually broken any laws. You can even ask if you are free to go while wearing handcuffs. It is unlikely to get you released, but could matter in a court case later.
After that, calmly and verbally exercise your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. Get the arresting officer’s name and badge number if you can.
Understand you may be in custody for some time before being released. You may end up spending the night in jail, or even several days in jail. It’s a good idea to contact an attorney before you go to a protest. In New York there shouldn’t be any bail if you’re arrested for a misdemeanor, but having a lawyer to advocate you should speed up the process of getting you released.
Evaluating the Charges
In some cases protesters get issued a desk appearance ticket, demanding they return to court at a later time. This is a best case scenario. Consult with your attorney and attend your court date. Chances are you will, at worst, have to pay a fine.
Other charges could include “walking on the highway” or “disorderly conduct – blocking vehicular traffic.” Some civil disobedience crimes can come with jail time, fines, or community service, though a good attorney may be able to prevent you from facing these consequences. You may also be charged with resisting arrest.
Remember, if police are ordering people to disperse they must give clear and detailed notice of the order, including how much time the protesters have to disperse, the consequences of failing to do so, and what clear exit route they can follow before they may be arrested and charged with any crime. If the police failed to do this you can tell your attorney, who can use it to help you.
Protesting is protected by the Constitution. It is your First Amendment right. It’s also dangerous out there, so be careful, and be state.