In the aftermath of the presidential election, many groups are organizing protests and marches. These organized activities can occur for any number of reasons and, when they take place in Florida, it is important for citizens of the state to understand their rights and responsibilities. If you will be participating in one of the upcoming marches or can see yourself protesting in the future, here is what you need to know.
Any person in the United States has the right to peaceful protest as outlined by the U.S. Constitution. The government can, however, impose restrictions regarding the time, place and manner in which those protests are held. The government or, in this case, law enforcement officials, can enact these restrictions as long as they are not based on the subject of the protest.
When protesting or marching, participants have the right to speak freely. That said, participants do not have the right to incite riots or provoke people to perform illegal actions. Obscene speech and malicious statements against public officials are not protected.
In general, participants in protests and marches have the right to act. They may march, chant, hold signs and the like. They can also engage observers or protesters on the opposite side of the issue, so long as it is done peacefully.
Participants do not have the right to block building entrances or harass people physically. Participants may not gather on private property without permission from the property owner.
Just because people have these rights, it doesn’t mean that they won’t find themselves in an encounter with police. If this occurs, participants do not have to answer an officer’s questions. They do have to produce their identification if asked to do so. A person does not have to consent to a search of their person or their belongings beyond a “pat down” for weapons.
If a protestor or marcher finds themselves under arrest, they have the right to contact an attorney. A person who has been arrested may provide biographical information to the police, but they are urged to enact their Miranda Rights when questioned further. No person should feel forced to answer questions and should consult an attorney before doing so.
Protesting as a way to state an opinion is a right of every citizen, provided that citizen is protesting in a way that doesn’t harm anyone else. Keep this in mind if you will be marching or protesting in the near future. While there is a type of freedom in being able to state your mind in a public way, there is also the possibility of finding yourself on the wrong side of the law if things get out of hand.
If you are arrested in Orlando after participating in a march or protest, call our office. We are here to protect your rights. Reach out to our experienced attorneys to schedule an appointment for a free case evaluation today.