What to Do if You Get Arrested at a Protest in Utah?

Several protests have taken place in Salt Lake City this summer.  One occurred on August 23, when demonstrators gathered to protest Rocky Mountain Power’s plan to sue the EPA.  Another took place on August 10, when supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement assembled to protest the February shooting of Abdullahi Mohamed by the SLCPD.  A third occurred on July 9, when about 200 people met at the Public Safety Building to protest police brutality following the shooting deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.  While most demonstrations resolve without incident, protesters are frequently charged with criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and other crimes.  This article offers tips on what to do if you or a loved one is arrested at a political protest in Utah.

What Types of Crimes Do Protesters Usually Get Arrested For?

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Protesters have been arrested for a wide variety of criminal offenses, most of which are misdemeanors of varying degrees of severity.  Some examples of criminal charges that can arise out of protests and demonstrations in Utah include:

  • Criminal Trespass
    • Statute – Utah Code § 76-6-206
    • Class – Class B Misdemeanor; Class A Misdemeanor
    • Sentence – Up to 6 months in jail; up to 1 year in jail
    • Fine – Up to $1,000; up to $2,500
  • Disorderly Conduct
    • Statute – Utah Code § 76-9-102
    • Class – Infraction; Class C Misdemeanor
    • Sentence – None; up to 90 days in jail
    • Fine – Up to $750
  • Disrupting a Meeting or Procession
    • Statute – Utah Code § 76-9-103
    • Class – Class B Misdemeanor
    • Sentence – Up to 6 months in jail
    • Fine – Up to $1,000
  • Failure to Disperse
    • Statute – Utah Code § 76-9-104
    • Class – Class C Misdemeanor
    • Sentence – Up to 90 days in jail
    • Fine – Up to $750
  • Failure to Stop at the Command of a Law Enforcement Officer
    • Statute – Utah Code § 76-8-305.5
    • Class – Class A Misdemeanor
    • Sentence – Up to 1 year in jail
    • Fine – Up to $2,500
  • Flag-Burning (Abuse of a Flag)
    • Statute – Utah Code § 76-9-601
    • Class – Class B Misdemeanor
    • Sentence – Up to 6 months in jail
    • Fine – Up to $1,000
  • Removing or Damaging Road Signs
    • Statute – Utah Code § 76-8-420
    • Class – Class B Misdemeanor
    • Sentence – Up to 6 months in jail
    • Fine – Up to $1,000
  • Resisting Arrest (Interference with Arresting Officer)
    • Statute – Utah Code § 76-8-305
    • Class – Class B Misdemeanor
    • Sentence – Up to 6 months in jail
    • Fine – Up to $1,000
  • Rioting
    • Statute – Utah Code § 76-9-101
    • Class – Class B Misdemeanor; Third Degree Felony
    • Sentence – Up to 6 months in jail; up to 5 years in prison
    • Fine – Up to $1,000; up to $5,000

What Are Your Legal Rights at a Public Demonstration or Political Protest?

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You should know what your legal rights are if you’re planning on attending a protest or demonstration in the near future.  These rights include:

  • The right to free speech.
    • You can make controversial statements.
    • You cannot threaten violence (which is a misdemeanor under Utah Code § 76-5-107) or make false alarms, like shouting “Fire!” in a crowd or calling in a false bomb threat (which is a misdemeanor or felony under Utah Code § 76-9-105).
    • If counter-protesters are also demonstrating at the same time and place, police officers may be present on the scene to prevent acts of violence or property destruction.
  • The right to gather on public sidewalks.
    • You can gather on sidewalks without a permit.
    • You cannot disrupt or block the flow of pedestrian traffic or automotive traffic, which is a form of disorderly conduct.
  • The right to record police officers.
    • You can film law enforcement if you are on public property.
    • You cannot film the police if doing so interferes with an arrest or other police procedure.
  • The right to hand out pamphlets, flyers, brochures, etc.
    • You can give paper materials to passerby.
    • You cannot set up a table, stand, booth, or other structure unless you have obtained a permit in advance.

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Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys Handling Misdemeanor and Felony Charges

The arrest and detention of a family member is a stressful, difficult experience to go through, but don’t assume that your situation is hopeless.  It may be possible to have your loved one released from jail if no charges have been filed after 72 hours, or to have their bail amount reduced.  However, no matter what the situation may be, it is critically important that your family member is represented by an experienced criminal attorney who will aggressively defend and protect their Constitutional liberties.

If a family member was charged with a misdemeanor or felony after attending a protest or demonstration in Utah, call the law offices of Overson Law right away at (801) 758-2287 for a free legal consultation. Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson has more than 16 years of experience working on thousands of criminal cases, and is ready to travel to the county jail where your loved one is being held in custody.