The social unrest happening nationwide in response to incidents of police brutality is causing us all to reexamine our own relationships with the law and our willingness to speak out against injustice. Protests of this size and scope have not been seen in the United States in at least a generation, and young people continue to participate in record numbers.
Unfortunately, even the non-violent tactics used to quell protests are proving to be highly controversial, including efforts here in Texas to arrest protestors under the state’s anti-rioting law. Late last month, three protesters who had been previously arrested in Dallas sued the city in an effort to have the law declared overly broad and unconstitutional.
Curtailing Free Speech
Those who criticize the law allege that it violates both the First-Amendment free speech rights of peaceful protestors and the Fourth-Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Certainly, laws like this have been used many times in the past to make it much more difficult for protestors to assemble and share their message, including during the early days of the civil rights movement.
Consequences of Arrest and Prosecution
One related problem that perhaps deserves more discussion is the effect that arrests and prosecutions will have on the lives of protesters long-term. Thankfully, most of those arrested recently under anti-riot laws in Texas have had the charges dropped.
But that’s not always the case. And in the United States, having a criminal arrest and conviction on your record can haunt you for years or even a lifetime. It can make it much harder to find a job, go to college, qualify for student aid and find good housing. No one should have to face that kind of long-term punishment for choosing to speak out against injustice. And the more often protestors are arrested, the more likely it is that some will slip through the cracks of the justice system and end up with burdensome criminal records.
If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with a crime, please don’t wait for the problems in the system to sort themselves out. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who will fight to defend your rights, your freedom and your future.