One of the great things about this country is the right people have to organize and protest. When those protests cross legal boundaries, however, the involved parties stand to face criminal charges. While some prosecutors dole out merely a slap on the wrist, in respect of our right to dissent, the LA City Attorney plans on prosecuting protesters to the fullest extent of the law.
According to the LA Times, Atty. Carmen Trutanich is going further than most people in his position ever have, or would, given the same set of circumstances. In charging protestors who break the law with misdemeanor criminal charges and refusing to negotiate, he seems to be sending a clear message, “Be quiet, or else.”
Los Angeles isn’t new to protest drama, as it seems the police and the city are always in the headlines for their relationships with protesters of all sorts. From rallies supporting the DREAM Act to those protesting tuition hikes, protests are not a new occurrence around here.
But, what is new is the level of prosecution which LA City Atty. Trutanich is fighting back with. Previously, particularly if it was a first time offense, a protester accused of violating laws while practicing dissent was often able to negotiate an agreement whereby they would only face an infraction and a $100 fine. It’s not clear if they would be facing a disorderly conduct charge, or another criminal offense.
Rather than having to go to trial, they would be given a city attorney hearing. It seems that practice has fallen by the wayside, however, as the city attorney’s office claims there are people protesting for pay, so called “professional” protesters who shouldn’t be allowed to break the law without serious repercussions.
Opponents of Trutanich’s new approach see no evidence of professional protesters and merely see people motivated to action by things they care deeply about. It’s even been suggested that Trutanich may be trying to make a name for himself in hopes of eventually moving into the LA County Prosecutor’s office. However, he denies this.
If someone breaks the law should they be held accountable? Sure. But what good will it serve the people of Los Angeles to tie up the court system with people who did little more than impede traffic to bring attention to a cause they felt deeply about? And what sort of impact with this witch hunt have on people’s motivation to protest in the future?
No matter how justified you believe you are in your actions, sometimes those actions run afoul of the law. And it’s up to the prosecutor in your jurisdiction to determine if you will face charges for the violation. If you are facing criminal charges, contact our offices for a consultation on your case.