2012 Republican National Convention: Tampa, Florida: Protests! Advice if you are approached by law enforcement!

protest.bmpTampa Bay has already begun the preparation to host the Republic National Convention to be held at the end of August. No doubt this will be an exciting time for the community as Delegates and Key Note speakers from around the country will be exploring the St. Petersburg and Tampa area. However, with the excitement of an upcoming presidential race comes controversy, with controversy comes protest, and often times protests lead interaction with law enforcement and often times arrests.

Police utilize several statutes to arrest citizens that may be engaged in protest or are overly disruptive. Under Florida Statute 877.03 persons who engage in conduct as to constitute a breach of the peace or disorderly conduct and against the peace and dignity of the State of Florida may be guilty of disorderly conduct. Police use disorderly conduct as the catch all crime to make arrest for persons acting out in protest. Violating Florida Statute 877.03 for being “disorderly” can land you or loved one in jail for 60 days and a fine of up to $500.00. Furthermore, if convicted, you can get up to six months of supervision.
Generally words alone will not be sufficient to sustain a conviction for disorderly conduct, however, any fighting or brawling, urinating, or having too much to drink will get you a ride to the county jail under the disorderly statute. If police are accusing you of disorderly conduct there are several things to remember: First, ask for your attorney! You are potentially being accused of a serious crime. An experienced trial attorney will be able to protect your rights and protect you from further incrimination. Second, keep your mouth shut! You have a Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Use it! Do not make any statements and do not consent to any searches.

In the heat of the moment, when dealing with the police, often citizens are angry and upset about being arrested. It is important to remain calm and be courteous to the officers. Often times, clients continue to resist arrest because they feel that they are being treated poorly and in an unjust manner. Under Florida Statute 843.02 if an individual knowingly resists, obstructs, or opposes a law enforcement officer engaged in legal duty can be arrested and charged with Obstruction or Resisting an Officer without Violence. Even a simple twisting of the arms while being handcuff can land someone a trip to jail and being charged with Obstruction. The crime carries a maximum penalty of 1 year in the county jail and up to a $1,000.00 fine.
If the officer feels that you know used violence in the execution of his lawful duty, the crime becomes much worse! Under Florida Statute 843.01 the crime is elevated to a third degree felony and you could face up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000.00 fine. If you are being arrested, invoke your right to an attorney and do not resist the efforts of the arrest.

Finally, never never never, touch or strike a law enforcement officer while he is engaged in his lawful duty. Again, this is a serious felony that can land you in Florida State Prison for up to 5 years and a $5,000.00 fine. Even knowingly “touching” a law enforcement could expose you to a felony crime of violence. Always keep your hands off officers. The scene is not the place to dispute the charge. The courtroom is the proper venue. Again, remain calm, you never win an argument with the law enforcement officer, it will only potentially land you in jail with felony or misdemeanor charges.

To recap, if you feel that you are in a hostile situation with law enforcement, do not resist and make a bad situation worse. If police have probable cause for an arrest, you will be arrested and taken to the local jail. On the scene is not the place to dispute the legality of the arrest. Remain calm, do not struggle, invoke your right to an attorney and keep your mouth closed. Call an experienced criminal trial attorney immediately to protect your rights!

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