The recent election of Donald Trump has prompted protests throughout our nation. In New York, Los Angeles and other major cities, thousands have taken to the streets to voice their displeasure with the election’s outcome. Some of these protests have been more peaceful than others, but in many states dozens of people were arrested and many are facing criminal charges.
Our state saw a fair share of protests as well. Thankfully, the anti-Trump protests that occurred here were largely peaceful, but that doesn’t mean that no one was arrested.
In fact, during a three-hour protest in Fort Lauderdale, footage showed a woman being handcuffed and picked up off of the ground by several officers. Some witnesses told reporters that she had thrown water on opposing Trump supporters, but the woman argued that she had done nothing wrong and demanded to speak to an attorney.
Of course, Donald Trump doesn’t have a monopoly on Florida protests. Opponents of a natural gas pipeline have also been taking to the streets. The 516-mile pipeline is set to go through Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, but some people don’t want that to happen.
Why? They believe the natural gas pipeline poses a threat to the drinking water around the pipeline, putting citizens at the risk of not only dirty drinking water, but also diseases like cancer.
Earlier this month citizens protested this construction, and fourteen arrests were made in Gainesville on grounds of disorderly conduct and trespassing. Specifically, a sheriff’s deputy stated that the arrested individuals were interfering with a truck that was delivering water.
If you are asking yourself, “Isn’t it a constitutional right to protest?” you are correct. However, protesters are commonly arrested not for exercising their rights to protest, but for engaging in “disorderly conduct.”
What Is Disorderly Conduct?
Disorderly conduct, also known as “breaching the peace,” is committed when someone violates the standards of public decency and compromises a level of peace and quiet that is expected from other people.
If this seems like a vague charge, it is. Anything could be technically considered disorderly conduct if it is loud enough. Loud noises in a park can be considered disorderly conduct. Obscene language on public transportation can be considered disorderly conduct.
Because of this, a lot of disorderly conduct cases rely on the context of the situation. “Expected levels of peace and quiet” are typically different in a public garden than at a public fair or concert. Protests, depending on the amount of people and the actions involved in the protest, can toe the line even more.
If You Have Been Charged with Disorderly Conduct
Disorderly conduct is not the most severe charge in the book, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. In Florida, it is a second degree misdemeanor that can result in up to $500 in fines and up to 60 days in prison. Moreover, a misdemeanor charge will still appear on your criminal record, which means it will follow you throughout applications for jobs, places to live, and can even increase the penalties you face if you ever find yourself up against a subsequent criminal charge.
If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, contact a Florida defense lawyer with experience representing this type of crime. Your right to protest must be protected at all costs, and a skilled disorderly conduct lawyer can help you argue that your actions were lawful and undeserving of criminal punishment.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.