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Detroit Legal Blog

Detroit Protesters: Your Rights & Options if Arrested

Jun 01, 2020, by Maurice Davis in Criminal Defense, Legal Blog, Police Brutality

The death of George Floyd, a black man, killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis who knelt on his neck during an arrest has erupted in nationwide protests. In Detroit, the calls to end police brutality have resulted in thousands marching in peaceful protests. But it has also led to violent clashes with officers and hundreds of arrests.

If you or a loved one have been caught up in the turmoil and arrested or need legal help after a Detroit area protest, contact Detroit defense attorney Maurice Davis. No one should live with a conviction for speaking up against the overly harsh treatment people of color experience every day.

Let us explain your situation, fight the charges, and help you deal with things the right way, Call Davis Law Group 24/7 for a free consultation: (313) 818-3238.

The Situation in Detroit

On Monday, June 1, 2020, the Detroit Free Press reported that protests began on Friday at Detroit Public Safety headquarters, later devolving into conflicts between officers and demonstrators. On Saturday, hundreds more packed the streets and again erupted into violence. The night ended with the police firing tear gas and rubber bullets. By Sunday there was a largely ignored 8 pm curfew and after several warnings, the crowd was again dispersed by tear gas and arrests. As of today, over 244 people were arrested for various charges.

Protesting in Detroit? Know Your Rights

The First Amendment protects your right to assemble and speak your mind. But the police can and will restrict demonstrations to (in theory) protect other citizens and their property. Interfering with these police actions can be a cause for arrest.

Where Can I Protest?

Protesters are usually allowed to speak freely in most public spaces, like streets, sidewalks, and parks. You are also protected in plazas or in front of government buildings, as long as you are not obstructing access or interfering with what the property was designed for.

Do You Need a Permit?

You don’t typically need a permit to protest on Detroit city streets or on sidewalks, as long as you don’t block traffic. This goes for pedestrians and vehicles. If you don’t have a permit to do so, the police will ask you to move to the side of a street to let others pass.

Can I Protest on Private Property?

Private property owners can set their own rules. If a protest spills onto private property, you could very well be charged with trespassing. This makes it vital for protesters to s be mindful of their surroundings.

What About Taking Photos & Video?

When you are lawfully in a public space, you have the right to photograph anything in plain view. This includes federal buildings and the police. Officers should not interfere with recording interactions, but it does happen.

They may ask you to stop, but in these situations, it’s best to calmly assert your right to do so. However, if you are filming on private property or posing a risk to others, you can lawfully be asked to stop.

How Should I Speak to Police?

Despite having the right to free speech, what you say to the police matters. Be cautious not to step over the line.

You understandably want to express your anger and frustration, but anything you say can and will be held against you. If you make threats or incite violence this can lead to serious charges.

What if the Police Try to Disperse the Crowd?

Police may not break up a lawful gathering unless there is a clear and present danger of riot, disorder, or other immediate threat.

If officers issue an order to disperse, they must also provide a reasonable chance to do so. This means they must give you time and a clear way to leave the area. They cannot order you to leave, keep the street blocked and fire rubber bullets and tear gas. Officers must also explain that failure to disperse will result in arrest.

What if I’m Arrested at a Protest?

Stay calm & keep your hands visible. Don’t argue, resist, or obstruct even if you feel they are violating your rights.

When you are first stopped, ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, calmly do so. If you are placed under arrest, you can ask why, but do not become combative. Simply follow their instructions and keep quiet because the best place to deal with charges is with help from a lawyer.

Remain silent and ask for an attorney the first chance you get. Don’t say anything or sign anything without a lawyer. Some organizations partner with groups like the ACLU, but you should consider a private attorney who will make your rights and release from custody their top priority.

Can the Police Search Me or Delete Footage?

You never have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings. But if you do explicitly consent, it can seriously impact your case.

The police can “pat down” your clothing for their own safety and will search you if you are under an arrest. But they can not confiscate or demand to see your phone, pictures, or video without a warrant, nor may they delete anything.

Arrested at a Protest? Call Davis

Detroit will likely continue seeing protests, curfews, and increasingly hostile interactions between protestors and the police. While this should be a wakeup call for the legal system, you should not have to deal with a mark against your record for taking part in a lawful protest.

If you were arrested in a protest or plan to attend a demonstration in Detroit and want legal help, an experienced and highly skilled defense lawyer is available.

Call attorney Maurice Davis with the Davis Law Group at (313) 818-3238 for a free consultation.