The First Amendment establishes several fundamental rights for all Americans, and chief among those are the rights to free speech and peaceful assembly. Those rights even extend to petitioning the government for a redress of grievances in some instances. However, when tensions are high, the scenarios in which people assemble in collective protest to any particular issue can result in even moderate activity being considered malevolent and potentially criminal. It is important for Florida residents to know that even being in the vicinity of a protest can result in a criminal charge depending on the circumstances.
Disorderly conduct charges
The lowest charge that can be applied for those who are cited when protesting is disorderly conduct. While it does take considerable disruptive behavior before officers can arrest anyone for disorderly conduct, there are certain instances when multiple people in a crowd are charged and will need criminal defense representation. A disorderly conduct conviction in Florida can be punishable by up to one year in a county jail, necessitating legal counsel.
Inciting a riot
When freedom of speech and assembly is coupled with banding specific individuals who are intent on doing harm, charges stemming from protests can get very serious. One of those charges is inciting a riot, and individuals in the crowd can be arrested even when they play no central role. Knowing your rights is vital in a protest atmosphere just in case of police questioning and confrontation.
Charges stemming from a protest might be dismissed or deferred when the material facts are presented to the court by a Florida criminal defense attorney. Protests sometimes result in mayhem and chaos when peaceful protocol is violated, so reasonable doubt may be established for innocent victims when all the case particulars are evaluated.