Americans have a fundamental right to “peacefully” assemble against government action. The definition of peacefulness can seem obvious. But, particularly if mass demonstrations are massive, the line between peaceful and destructive is fluid. And police consider peaceful actions to be destructive and risky what an activist considers to be a peaceful one. In a major protest, in more circumstances than you would expect, you will cross to the illegal side.

At one end of the continuum, the destruction of or harm to property, break into businesses and robbery, physical injury or disruptions, or abuse are unlawful. But at the other end of the continuum, what does it mean to engage in an unorderly activity or disrupt peace? (Refer to these crimes of looting and vandalism Criminal penalties) How are you at the end of those charges? It may also be a criminal offense to break a warrant, to disobey an order for the dispersal, to infringe privately or publicly, to block a road or highway, or to hinder the duties of an officer.

The protest against common criminal charges

The definitions and penalties for charges sometimes related to protest are given below. The laws of the state and city, from the criminal elements to sanctions, vary considerably. Check the applicable crimes and punishments under your state or city legislation in your area.

Disorderly behavior or peace disruption

Countries usually categorize disorderly activity or peace-rising as actions that unreasonably interfere with others’ rights or cause other citizens to be alarmed, angered, molested, and unlawful.

These concepts include a wide variety of activities including:

Traffic blocking or the footpath (without a permit)

Creation of conditions for harming others

Rejecting a police disbursement order or

Screaming threats or fights that can cause a violent immediate reaction

The Assembly Unconstitutional

The crime of illegal assembly requires a group of people who disrupt or threaten public peace or plan to perpetrate an illegal act (such as a riot or looting). It is also a felony to refuse to leave an unconstitutional assembly if the police request. An individual can be charged with disturbance when property damage or abuse is involved.

Police intervention or obstruction; resistance to arrest

Some states have different rules for intervening with or preventing the success of a policeman, firefighter, or ambulance crew. Undermining or stopping emergency crews from entering an area may lead to criminal charges.

The resistance to an arrest is also illegal. Some states permit a person to resist unlawful arrest using fair force, but a resisting arrest is typically not a good idea. If the situation unravels, it may lead to serious injury or worse.

Public right of way blocked or obstructed

If the protest leaders have obtained the authorization to block those streets, it is illegal to protest that ultimately block streets, roads, or footpaths. Some states or towns are governed by a separate statute, and others are covered by more generalized diseases or public nuisance legislation.

Crime violations mean access to land knowing that you cannot live or stay there until you are told to leave. This extends both to private and public land. A sign indicating that the area is locked or an owner informs you to leave the building is a warning that you have violated it.

Curfew Infringements

Governors and mayors also use their emergency authority to issue curfews to safeguard public protection and order during disturbances. Curfew orders are usually in force when public safety issues are involved, such as violent protests, property destruction, or incense. The government should usually provide the curfew with a broad and consistent detail on when and when to apply. In these emergency orders or criminal law, penalties for violations of the Order can be specified.

Sanctions and Effects

Depending on the place you live, criminal penalties can vary. Violations of the above offenses result in criminal punishment in many countries and towns. In general, misconduct carries a maximum term of up to one year and a fine. Crime sanctions may be available when the unlawful act leads to bodily injury or property damage (in which case, the charges could also be raised to rioting, looting, or criminal property damage).

Although a misdemeanor does not appear to be a grave accusation, the jury trial is not simple. You may be held in zip ties waiting for transportation to prison if a mass arrest is carried out and for hours you might be detained during the booking process. You might also be able to stay in jail for a few days awaiting a bail hearing, depending on the case.

At times, prosecutors drop the charges after a mass arrest. However, if the allegation sticks, if you may not qualify as a public defender financially, you will need to pay for a private attorney. In prison, probation, community services, fines, and fees will lead to a conviction. A criminal record can make it difficult to obtain loans, accommodation, work and professional licenses, even a misdemeanor.

Constitutional Conflicts

Sometimes, people have contradictory rights and the right of the government to monitor protests—in the streets and at a trial. In some cases, the legislation goes far too far in the elimination of civil rights for protesters, and in some cases, the law may be applied by the police too far.

Many of the countries have consistently opposed First Amendment rights, due process rights, and other fundamental guarantees for the above-mentioned crimes. Unconstitutionality (meaning that you cannot say by law which acts are prohibited) and over-wide crimes such as disoriented behavior or disrupted peace have been challenged Crimes (by stomping on First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble). Courts have also discussed challenges to curfew orders that violate the freedom to assemble and criticize the government in an unlawful way.

In general, the government has broad powers for public security to track crowds. They can enforce rules as long as those rules are fair, narrowly modifying, and have a valid effect, on when, how, and where they can protest. They cannot enforce arbitrary limitations, based on the contents or viewpoints of demonstrators, or revoke fundamental rights unreasonably. And when arresting anyone, police cannot use undue power or violence.

Talk to an advocate

You must talk to an attorney when you are charged with a crime stemming from a protest. A lawyer will help you navigate the criminal justice system, analyze your case to uphold your civil rights, and to protect your rights. You might also talk to one lawyer if you think that the police have abused your rights using excessive force or using unconstitutional methods during protest even if the charges are dismissed or you aren’t charged.

Rebecca Pirius

Rebecca Pirius is a criminal law legal editor at Nolo. Since 2003, she has been a senior political expert at the National Conference of State Legislatures, most recently in the criminal field (NCSL). Rebecca was a policy analyst and lawyer at the Minnesota House of Representatives for 12 years who provided the 134 members with non-partisan legal study and drafting services. She was a graduate of the Hennepin County Judge School (Minneapolis, Minnesota). She gained Rebecca J.D. She has studied magna cum laude and was a member of the law review at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Minnesota. She’s a Minnesota State Bar member.

Nolo: Rebecca started freelancing with Nolo in 2017 and wrote posts on criminal law, traffic law, and driving impaired. In 2019, she began serving as a full-time law editor at Nolo. She writes for CriminalDefenseLawyer.com and Nolo.com in particular.

Prior career. Rebecca has carried out a thorough investigation and review of criminal justice, public safety, correction, and court regulations and laws in Minnesota’s legislature and NCSL. Her positions required her to break down complicated legal principles for a large audience and allow her to collaborate on the two sides of the political alley, including policymakers and constituents. She collaborated with city and state officials, attorneys, legal lawyers, former offenders, young adult offenders, crime victims, and criminal justice experts during NCSL’s policy works.

Legal and articles are written and released. Rebecca wrote numerous publications at the Minnesota Legislature, identifying and detailing Minnesota traffic citation rules, public defenders, jury, domestic violence, etc., and other publications. She went on to write criminal law at NCSL where she published blogs and publications on criminal history, the legal system for young men and women, and bail. Her publications included Put Up or Stay Put the legislative preliminary document on young people in the system of justice, and a policy brief for those with criminal backgrounds on barriers to employment.