Since the election there have been protests erupting all over the nation. The one’s we’ve probably heard of most are those that occurred in Los Angeles. The protestors all seem to be angry at the way the Democratic Process has played out in this scenario. Faced with a campaign about building a wall and having religions identify themselves is a tough pill to swallow. These protestors may be opening themselves up to more than just their community and the news channels; they may be opening themselves up to criminal charges.
In California, we have some laws regarding what is known as “unlawful assembly.” This crime is defined in California Penal Code Sections 407 and 408. Protestors, by nature, are behaving in a boisterous or tumultuous manner and they are usually in a group of two or more. These terms as well as the number of people in a group are used in the penal code to describe people who can be charged with unlawful assembly. In order for them to be convicted of this crime, however, a prosecutor has to prove that they were aware that their actions were illegal. Proving this gets much easier when you do not have a skilled criminal defense attorney protecting you from potentially getting taken advantage of during the investigatory phase of the case.
Though this rule may seem a little broad because there are often groups of more than two people being boisterous… just check around a bar the next time you grab a drink. The California Supreme Court has narrowed this definition by specifying that the group of people behaving in such a way must be either posing a threat of imminent violence or presenting some sort of danger. Considering this new definition then, we can see that there are definitely less things that qualify under unlawful assembly. The bad news? Protests can still fall under this narrowed definition. The moment when a protest officially can be considered an unlawful assembly is when it goes from peaceful to violent.
While it is all too tempting to take to the streets to publically show dissatisfaction with the results of the election, there can be some serious consequences to such a decision. If you find yourself, a family member or even a friend in a situation where they are being charged with this crime it is important to get a criminal defense attorney right away. The attorney will be able to craft the best defense for the charged individual and may even be able to get the charges dropped altogether.
Without an attorney, you could be leaving yourself up to a fine or even some time in jail. Though it is not likely that jail time will be the likely consequence if convicted of this crime it is still on the table. There are often other charges that can be combined with this crime that could increase the possible penalties. Having representation is the only way to be sure that you are securing the best possible chances for your future.